She’s Funny That Way (2014)

shesfunnythatway_2014_poster
She’s Funny That Way (2014)
  • Time: 93 min
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Director: Peter Bogdanovich
  • Cast: Imogen Poots, Jennifer Aniston, Owen Wilson, Quentin Tarantino

Storyline:

A married Broadway director falls for a prostitute-turned-actress and works to help her advance her career.

One review

  • The great Ernst Lubitsch once said, “I’ve been to Paris, France and I’ve been to Paris, Paramount. Paris, Paramount is better.” Paris, Paramount was pure fantasy woven out of reality and therefore a Paris where dreaming could be done. One could build the beating heart of Paris on a sound stage or a backlot, and have that construction serve as a backdrop for stories loosely tethered to logic. The point was happiness and escapism, and that mission statement is made abundantly clear in the title cards which open Peter Bogdanovich’s star-studded screwball comedy, She’s Funny That Way.

    “We believe in the old saying that facts should never get in the way of a good yarn,” those cards declare and Bogdanovich’s film is indeed a carousel of coincidences where facts can be disregarded or re-written to fit the shape of the story being told. Take the story of Isabella Patterson, formerly Izzy Finkelstein (Imogen Poots), who recounts her rise from Brooklyn call girl to Hollywood starlet. Izzy sees herself as a muse bringing magic to the lives of the men who pay for her services. Sometimes, however, even a muse needs a muse and Izzy’s muse comes in the form of successful film and theater director Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson), a client who encourages her to give up being a call girl and pursue her dreams of being an actress. He dispels her doubts by giving her thirty thousand dollars, no strings attached, to get herself started. After all, Arnold quotes from Lubitsch’s last completed film Cluny Brown, “Some people like to feed nuts to the squirrels, but if someone wants to feed squirrels to the nuts, who am I to say nuts to the squirrels?”

    It’s a crazily expressed philosophy, and one that backfires on the married director when Izzy auditions for a role in his latest Broadway production, a play that happens to star his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) and her still-smitten ex-lover Seth (Rhys Ifans). Both performers are bowled over by Izzy’s reading as is playwright Joshua (Will Forte), who is instantly in her thrall. As if these complications weren’t enough, there’s also Jane (Jennifer Aniston), Joshua’s sharp-tongued girlfriend who is also psychoanalyst to both Izzy and her obsessed stalker Pendergast (Austin Pendleton), who has hired Joshua’s private detective father (George Morfogen) to track Izzy’s every whereabout.

    Bogdanovich, returning after a thirteen-year absence with a script he co-wrote in the 1990s with ex-wife Louise Stratten as a vehicle for her and the late John Ritter, is certainly the ideal handler for this screwball farce, having displayed an expert feel for the genre’s delicate yet complex rhythms in 1972’s What’s Up, Doc?, the Barbra Streisand-Ryan O’Neal comedy that paid direct homage to Howard Hawks’ classic Bringing Up Baby. She’s Funny That Way finds the director in fine fettle, extracting a frothful frenzy out of juggled phone conversations, slapped faces, and numerous near-misses. On the whole, it’s a pleasing and entertaining product even if its construction borders on the careless and its beats are not always so precisely timed.

    The film’s premise and execution may wobble from time to time, but the cast is superb. Wilson, Ifans, and Forte are wonderful but it’s the women who dominate. Lucy Punch is the undisputed scene-stealer, appearing for a few minutes as an Eastern European escort whose barely there English adds to the confusion. Aniston is remarkable in a showy supporting role, thoroughly diving into her character’s gleeful unpleasantness. Hahn is terrific and Poots is a wonder (though that too-thick Brooklyn accent sometimes jars).

    Bogdanovich obviously has a ton of supportive admirers as evidenced by the involvement of Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach as executive producers and the onscreen cameos by the likes of former muse Cybill Shepherd, Tatum O’Neal, Colleen Camp, Richard Lewis, Michael Shannon, Joanna Lumley, and one big-name director and fellow cinephile who appears before the closing credits.

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