Well over 30 years ago, Woody Allen started representing the neurotic, Jewish New Yorker on the big screen. Whether it was Virgil Starkwell robbing a bank with a “gub” (Take the Money and Run), Miles Monroe beating a man insensible with a strawberry (Sleeper) or Cliff Stern plagiarizing love letters from the works of James Joyce (Crimes and Misdemeanors), you couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the guy. Sure, he was needy, sometimes seedy and, at times greedy, but at the end of the day, you loved him.
Larry David (with an assist from Jerry Seinfeld) rescued us when this once fresh archetype grew stale. David represented many of the same neurotic tics as Allen did, but was courageous enough to show them in all of their ugliness. That’s why Whatever Works, the much-heralded team-up between the ghost of nebbish past and present seems so off-kilter. Watch the trailer and try not to cringe when David breaks the fourth wall to tell us he’s “not a lovable guy.”
Does a character played by Larry David really need to call himself unlovable? Will he become lovable over the course of the film as per the standard Allen protagonist? Will Allen neuter David of all of the unredemptive bile that infects his character on Curb? Here’s to the hope that this collaboration for the ages ushers Allen into the 21st Century and doesn’t drag David back to the 20th.