Film review: ‘SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY’, from Built For Speed

With his remarkable trio of hits The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon and What’s Up Doc, Peter Bogdanovich became one of the defining directors of the 1970’s. HIs star rapidly began to fade, however, with the critically panned 1975 musical At Long Last Love. He subsequently drifted into the world of telemovies and became a prolific actor; Sopranos fans will recall his cameos as droll psychiatrist Dr Elliot Kupferberg.  He has continued to make the occasional feature film and his 2003 movie The Cat’s Meow, a speculation on the events surrounding a murder on media mogul William Randolph’s yacht, showed he could still fashion charming cinema.  His latest film, the light-weight rom-com, She’s Funny That Way exudes a similar appeal despite its erratic script and glaringly obvious debt to Woody Allen.

Owen Wilson, who seems to have just stepped off the set of Midnight In Paris, plays theatre director Arnold Albertson, a generally affable guy who, despite being married has a proclivity for prostitutes whom he tries impress with a line about a squirrels and nuts that he pinched from a Charles Boyer film.  Things become complicated for Arnold when he hires the feisty young call girl and aspiring actress Isabella (Imogen Poots) who then proceeds to show up at an audition for his latest play.  Even worse for Arnold, sleazeball actor Seth Gilbert (Rhys Ifans) threatens to reveal Arnold’s sexual antics to his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) while playwright Joshua also tries to move in on Isabella despite being in a relationship with Isabella’s crazed psychiatrist (Jennifer Aniston).

From this set-up Bogdanovich fashions an amiable if unfocused screwball comedy that begins in awkward fashion but slowly works its charms.  With a large ensemble of name actors whose characters’ lives intersect through romantic dalliances this film resembles most of Woody’s films of the last decade but doesn’t quite match Woody’s neurotic wit.

The film benefits from a fine cast: Owen Wilson does his typical but still enjoyable spaced-out everyman routine.  Imogen Poots is as delightful as always although her broad ‘Noo York’ accent takes some getting used to.  Jennifer Aniston gives a memorable performance as Isabella’s therapist who is a slightly less obscene variation on her unethical dentist from Horrible Bosses.  Rhys Ifans is at his sleazy best as actor Seth Gilbert.  Curb Your Enthusiasm fans will be intrigued and a little disappointed to see comedian Richard Lewis appearing as Isabella’s Father in a strange and underwritten role.  Bogdanovich’s former muse Cybil Shepherd also appears as Lewis’ wife in an even less substantial role. 

She’s Funny That Way is no cinematic milestone, it’s only fitfully funny and has a the cut-price cobbled-together look of a TV show rather than a feature from a Hollywood auteur but like many of Bogdanovich’s films it has an alluring warmth that helps it overcome most of its flaws.

 Nick’s rating: ***.

Genre: Romantic comedy.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Peter Bogdanovich.

Release date: 27th July 2015.

Running time: 93 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 


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