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Woody Allen



Screening room

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Status: Completed

Director(s): Woody Allen

Long synopsis : Woody Allen returns to New York with an offbeat comedy about a crotchety misanthrope (Larry David) and a naïve, impressionable young runaway from the south (Evan Rachel Wood). When her uptight parents, (Patricia Clarkson and Ed Begley, Jr.) arrive to rescue her, they are quickly drawn into wildly unexpected romantic entanglements. Everyone discovers that finding love is just a combination of lucky chance and appreciating the value of WHATEVER WORKS. After the failure of his career, his marriage, and his suicide attempt, world-class grouch Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David), spends his days insulting the small children unfortunate enough to study chess with him and irritating his still-loyal friends with his never-ending tirades about the worthlessness of absolutely everything. A former Columbia Professor and self-proclaimed genius who came close to winning a Nobel Prize for Quantum Mechanics, Boris fancies himself the only one who fully comprehends the meaningless of all human aspirations, and the pitch-black chaos of the universe. As he readily admits, Boris is not a “feel-good person.” Boris once had a picture-perfect life. A world-renowned physicist teaching String Theory at Columbia, he was married to Jessica (Carolyn McCormick), a brilliant and beautiful, rich woman, and lived in an opulent uptown apartment. But Boris’s good fortune didn’t alleviate his perpetual feelings of despair, and one night, in the midst of an argument with Jessica, he leapt out the window. To his great disappointment, he landed on a canopy and survived. Afterwards, he divorced Jessica and moved downtown. One night, Boris is about to enter his apartment when he is approached by a young runaway, Melody St. Ann Celestine (Evan Rachel Wood), who begs to be let into his apartment. Seeing that she is hungry and cold, he reluctantly agrees. Melody turns out to be dewy-eyed innocent from Mississippi, who takes every sarcastic comment Boris makes completely literally. Boris helpfully tells her she is a brainless twit too fragile to survive in New York, but he allows her to stay for a “few nights.” But as time passes, Melody makes herself at home, and shows no intention of moving out. She is even able to calm Boris down from one of his panic attacks, by inviting him to watch a Fred Astaire movie with her on TV. Eventually, Melody drops a bombshell: She has developed a crush on him. Boris tells her a beautiful girl like her should find somebody her own age. “You think I’m beautiful?” she asks. Melody meets Perry (John Gallagher, Jr.), a young man who is immediately smitten with her. Although she bewilders him by parroting Boris’s doom-and-gloom philosophy, he asks her out on a date. While she’s out Perry, Boris tells his friends Joe (Michael McKean) and Leo Brockman that he hopes Perry will take Melody off his hands, but he lets it slip that he finds her more attractive than he had previously allowed. Returning to a too-quiet apartment, Boris brightens when Melody comes home. Her date was a washout; she couldn’t relate to Perry or any of his cretin friends, none of whom knew the first thing about string theory. Listening to Melody, Boris is struck by an unexpectedly pleasurable appreciation of the chance factor in life, the vast unlikelihood that the paths of two such dissimilar people would ever cross. Boris and Melody get married and start a life that is surprisingly satisfying for both of them. He recognizes the value her cheerfulness, and she is proud to be married to a genius. But after a year, their happiness is interrupted by the sudden arrival of Melody’s strait-laced mother, Marietta (Patricia Clarkson). Marietta has come to New York to find Melody and get away from her husband, who cheated on her with her best friend. Discovering that her daughter is not only married, but wed to an eccentric curmudgeon decades older, she faints. In an effort to temper the awkwardness of the situation, Boris takes the two of them out to lunch with his friend, Leo Brockman (Conleth Hill). While at the restaurant, Marietta encounters Randy Lee James (Henry Cavill), a handsome young man who is captivated by Melody. Likewise, Brockman is bowled over by Marietta. Brockman soon invites Marietta on a date and later, to his apartment. When she shows him some snapshots she took, he is startled by her talent: She is a naturally gifted photographer, a true artist. Marietta spends the night with him. Making love with Brockman unleashes Marietta sexually and artistically. Soon she is freely exploring her sexuality and blossoming as a boundary-pushing photographer. Eventually she settles into a ménage à trois with Brockman and her gallery owner, Al Morgenstern (Olek Krupa). Marietta arranges for Randy Lee James to turn up at a flea market where she will be shopping with her daughter. Buying Melody a handkerchief, Randy explains that he’s an actor who lives on a houseboat, plays the flute, and who fell in love with her at first sight. Melody brushes him off, saying she’s a married woman, but she holds onto the handkerchief. Melody finally reacts to one of Boris’s rants by telling him he’s like a child who throws a tantrum when can’t get his way. Boris is flabbergasted that Melody can have insight of her own and think for herself. Marietta orchestrates a second “chance meeting” between Melody and Randy. This time it is successful and the two of them end up making love on his boat. Melody and Boris are jolted by the unexpected arrival of her father, John (Ed Begley, Jr.), who is determined to bring his daughter and wife home. Ignoring Melody and Boris’s warnings that Marietta has moved on and is not the woman she used to be, John insists on being taken to his wife immediately. Arriving in the middle of one of Marietta’s gallery openings, John is stunned by the extent of his wife’s transformation, and devastated by her rejection. Trying her hardest to be kind, Melody tells Boris that she met someone else and has fallen in love. As cruel as life may be, she says she misses participating in it. Boris responds frostily, saying her leaving him doesn’t run counter to his beliefs: If the universe is winding down, why shouldn’t they? That night, as John nurses his sadness in a bar, he gets into a conversation with another heartbroken man, Howard Cummings, née Kaminsky (Christopher Evan Welch). John is bewildered when he discovers that the wife that abandoned Howard is named Norman. Still, as their heart-to-heart continues, and John’s tongue is loosened by alcohol, he admits that he never really had a passion for his wife and remembers that back in high school he had a feeling for the tight end on the football team. Cummings (née Kaminsky) orders another round. Despondent without Melody, Boris decides to end it all and jumps out the window. Through a random and capricious trick of fate, he lands on top of a woman, cushioning his fall and sending her to the hospital. Visiting the woman, Helena (Jessica Hecht), in the hospital, Boris discovers she doesn’t suffer fools gladly any more than he does. What’s more, Helena is a psychic. “How come you didn’t know I would fall on you?” Boris asks her. “Maybe I did,” she responds. As the romantic partners in this story uncouple and realign, seeking the emotional configurations that fulfill their needs, the outcomes suggest that there are no rules for love, and everyone must learn to be flexible and realistic. However out of the ordinary a relationship might be, it’s whatever works to get you through life.


  • Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Henry Cavill, Ed Begley Jr., Christopher Evan Welch


  • Producer(s): Letty Aronson, Stephen Tenenbaum
  • Director(s): Woody Allen
  • Screenplay: Woody Allen
  • DP: Harris Savides
  • Editing: Alisa Lepselter
  • Set Design: Santo Loquasto
  • Genre(s): Comedy

  • Production company: GRAVIER PRODUCTIONS
  • Production date: 2009
  • Language: English
  • Duration: 92 min