Who's In It: Larry David, Evan Rachel Wood, Patricia Clarkson, Ed Begley, Jr.
The Basics: Larry David, playing to type as a corrosively unpleasant, pessimistic, loudmouthed, know-it-all New Yorker, meets barely legal runaway Evan Rachel Wood, an ignorant, naive, suhthuhn-accented babe-in-the-woods. He despises her and she finds him endlessly fascinating. He teaches her how to parrot his dark-souled ideas and eventually they fall in love and get married. Meanwhile Wood's devoutly Christian mother (Patricia Clarkson) comes to find her and, in turn, winds up on her own journey of Big City Self Discovery. Southern folks, you see, are all moronic hicks until New York teaches them how to be sophisticated.
What's the Deal: Because the script's been freshened up from an earlier version penned in the 1970s, this Woody Allen movie feels like his greatest hits rearranged for 2009. What's new about it is that with David in the lead, and with the youngest leading lady we've seen since Mariel Hemingway in Manhattan, you get the feeling that the "Woody Allen Character" has been made intentionally even more icky, more angrily self-absorbed and more obnoxious than ever before, almost like the filmmaker is mocking himself. And that's a good thing because everyone else was already doing that for him. And it's funny enough. You'll laugh. But it feels a lot like giggling at the same joke your grandfather likes to tell over and over.
Someone Hearts New York But It's Not The Director: It used to be that Allen's movies had a cinematographic affection for his hometown like no one else. And maybe off-camera he still does. Apartments in his movies were aspirational, streets seemed welcoming, everything looked like the coolest destination ever. In this movie there's exactly one moment that feels like a to-do list for a visitor, like the excellent travelogues of his earlier New York stories, and that's the place where David and Wood get knishes. That's it.
Most Grating Stuff:
1. Wood's fake Deep South dialect. She wears it like a Halloween costume.
2. Allen's seeming unwillingness to bother understanding anyone who isn't the Woody Allen Character. Why does Wood love this crank? Why does Patricia Clarkson discard her old life for a new one? Why do the gay characters talk about their lives in ways so unlike any gay person you've ever met?
3. The way the script keeps trying to teach you the live and let live lesson of the title by repeating the title again and again in the course of not only character conversation but as direct fourth-wall-breaking address to the audience. OKAY I GET IT! HAVE TO ACCEPT WHAT MY HEART WANTS BECAUSE I NEVER KNOW WHAT'S AROUND THE CORNER AND LIFE CAN HAND YOU BIG SURPRISES! SHUT UP ABOUT IT!
At Least It's Not: Anything Else, Hollywood Ending, Curse of the Jade Scorpion or Melinda & Melinda