Whatever Works: Woddy Allen’s Sentimental Tale

WHATEVER WORKS, written and directed by Woody Allen, is released June 19, 2009 by Sony Pictures Classics.

All the characters from the south in the film come to New York City and find whatever works for
them. “Melody grows up a little bit,” says Allen. “At first she’s infatuated with Boris, but then she starts to realize his misanthropy. While often people deserve his mockery, not everybody always deserves it and he’s too extreme and ultimately it’s a hard way to live. She would be better off living with someone that’s not so afflicted by such intense feelings of pessimism and misanthropy, like Randy Lee James (Henry Cavill). So Melody is no longer the little pageant idiot that she was when she came, she’s progressed within her limitations, but she has definitely changed. Marietta had always been living a fake life with a guy who wasn’t really in love with her very much sexually and that probably colored the whole thing. And she was a victim of all those rural and ignorant prejudices that come from the lifestyle and the area that she was living in. When she gets a chance, when somebody encourages her artistic side rather than discourages it, all of a sudden she’s ready to burst into bloom. She’s an artist, and all it took was for someone to give her a chance for it all to come out. And the same with her husband John (Ed Begley, Jr.). He was a closet homosexual, and if given the chance it comes out, and he’s much happier for it.

So, actually, the picture itself is really a much more sentimental picture than the story would have you think. Because in the end the mother’s happy she’s found a new life, the fathers happy he’s found a new life, though not with each other.”

Many of the key events of WHATEVER WORKS are driven by pure chance. People come together through pure happenstance, like being at the same restaurant or bar at the same time. This reflects Allen’s belief that luck is responsible for 90% of what occurs in our lives. “I do think that if you do your treadmill and you eat well you can make a contribution to your longevity or your health,” he says. “But it’s a small contribution. In the end you’re very much dependent on luck. One can always make a contribution of hard work and discipline, but as I said in MATCH POINT: it’s better to be lucky than good.” He continues, “You can search for the loved one in every conceivable way but it doesn’t mean anything. And then suddenly you’re crossing a street and somebody drops her package and you pick it up and start a conversation and that’s the person that you enjoy being with. And after that, there are a million things that have to fall in place correctly: you have to not get hit by a car, or not develop terminal cancer; you have to assume that your partner is lucky that way; you have to enjoy what they enjoy, and they have to enjoy what you enjoy. You get up in the morning, and all through your relationships, and for every little thing that happens all you can do is work very hard and try and influence it. But you can only do a very limited amount. The world is a very indifferent, meaningless, violent place.
You can try your best to survive and be happy in it, but you need luck to do it—and a lot more luck than you think. You often hear people say, ‘I make my luck.’ But the same person who brags that he makes his luck steps out of his house, and they’re hoisting a piano above him, and it happens to break and drop on his head. Then he didn’t make his luck.”

No matter what happens to Boris, he will always be to a certain extent lonely, isolated as he is by his higher intellect. “Everyone in the movie, no matter happy, or bright, or accomplished, or perceptive they are, they all function within a certain limited realm and they’re fine,” says Allen. “But their view is earthbound and limited, and Boris’s view is not earthbound. Boris is the one who sees what the others can’t see. He is indeed a genius, because he is the only one who is able to see that there really is an audience out there. Whenever the picture is shown, even if it’s only for one person, they are being watched.”