Woody Allen's Not-So-Triumphant Return to New York

The director's new film Whatever Works premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival last night, marking his first New York-set feature since fleeing for Europe six years ago. So how did it fare? Not terrifically.

But not terribly, either. There were some scathing words, but we've begun to suspect that those have more to do with people's distaste for Allen as a person and an inability to see his films as stand-alone pictures. Mostly though, the film sounds mild and minor, with some requisite Allen ickiness and a few clunky antiquated jokes.

Angry Lou Lemnick of the New York Post finds it creaky and vaguely embarrassing:

Woody has told interviewers he wrote this script years ago for himself and updated it recently.

Yes, there is a cringeworthy gag about our new president being unable to get a cab in New York, and an even worse one about Viagra. And he tries to show he's with it by briefly throwing in a menage a trois, just like in his last film, the far funnier "Vicky Cristina Barcelona."

But few under 50 are going to get his reference to Texas sniper Charles Whitman (he's the Binghamton killer of 1966). Some of the gags are even older, and only occasionally funny.

Two dudes over at Vanity Fair, Frank DiGiacomo and Bruce Handy, have differing opinions. DiGiacomo loved it, saying it's the first Allen movie he's really laughed at in a long time:

For one thing, I go to see his movies hoping to laugh my ass off, and that hasn't happened in a while-at least until I saw Whatever Works.

Whereas Handy just found the May/December romance (between Larry David and Evan Rachel Wood) straight up creepy:

Allen doesn't even bother to make the relationship between David's and Evan Rachel Woods's characters credible. Aside from her being hot, the attraction makes no sense: She's a moron and he's hateful.

Eric Kohn at indieWire also finds the David/Wood pairing frustrating:

Their "marriage" has less credibility than the plot of "Bananas": It's random, abrupt and utterly non-romantic. We never even see them kiss. "I have been patient with your phenomenal ignorance," he tells her, but the cynicism-just like their shared passion-doesn't appear to register.

In the end, though, maybe we're expecting to much from the aged Allen, who has given us so much. Maybe we can just let this be a pretty decent comedy, Jason Guerrasio at Filmmaker Magazine seems to argue:

...Allen's latest work can hardly match his earlier ones shot in his beloved city, so we won't even go there, instead he constructs an entertaining, conventional (for Allen's standards) comedy...

Fair enough. You know. Uh... heh. Whatever works.