Whatever Works: a great atheist comedy

When I saw Whatever Works last year I loved it. The person I saw it with told me I reminded her a lot of Boris Yelnikoff, the lead character played by Larry David. I took it as a compliment. Plenty of people have told me I remind them of Woody Allen, which I also take as a compliment (though I know it isn’t always meant as one.)

My impression was that the movie kind of got slammed as one of Allen’s least-best, which is hardly criticism. I just watched it again. It’s actually a moving atheist comedy about Bible-Belt American Christians losing their old-time religion, following their passions and embracing a secular lifestyle in New York City.

There’s a great scene where Ed Begley, Jr., who plays the father, falls to his knees and begs Jesus for forgiveness for his sins. His daughter Melody, by now married to Yelnikoff – a misanthropic Jewish atheist – smiles sweetly and says, “Do you want to tell him or should I?”

“Tell me what?” her father responds.

“There’s nobody out there. Honest. You’re prayin’ to no one!”

Here’s the New Year’s scene at the end, which I’d wanted to post a few days ago, but what the hell. It’s a great movie, even if it’s not Annie Hall.

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