I’ve heard mixed reactions to Whatever Works, Woody Allen’s new movie starring Larry David (four of five reviews at Rotten Tomatoes are negative) but that doesn’t stop me from being interested in Allen’s return to New York City. Especially after reading the feature in New York Magazine, which reveals the script as one originally written during Allen’s career-defining New York run in the ’70s.
The mag asks, “Remember the Woody Allen of the seventies, the guy who several
generations of New Yorkers decided was the comedic poet laureate of
their era of the city? Whatever Works
is, in essence, the missing movie from that period—the film that would
have rounded out the New York phase of Allen’s early career if only he
had made it.”
When the writer’s strike threatened last year, Allen pulled out Whatever Works, mothballed at the end of the ’70s when the actor it was written for — Zero Mostel — passed away. NY Mag reports that very little work was done to bring it up to speed before shooting began early last year. The result is described as “a Larry David movie that doesn’t quite feel like a Larry David movie
and a new Woody Allen movie that isn’t really new.”
Focus of the feature is really on the twilight of the sort of expressly Jewish comedy that Allen and David both represent. (Comedy that is “neurotic, depressive, abrasive, excluded.”) As an authority on neither comedian I’m going to refrain from commenting on what may be a premature death knell for the form. Instead I’ll be happy that Allen is only revealing this now, that he didn’t succumb to any temptation to announced this particular film not only as his return to New York, but to the comedy forms that made him a name. Granted, had he announced that, the reviews now would probably be even more savage.