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She's Funny That Way


Stars: Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Kathryn Hahn, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Aniston, Will Forte, Illeana Douglas, Richard Lewis, Austin Pendleton, George Morfogen, Ahna O'Reilly, Debi Mazar, Lucy Punch, Tovah Feldshuh, Cybill Shepherd, Quentin Tarantino, Jennifer Esposito, Jake Hoffman, Michael Shannon, Tatum O'Neal, Joanna Lumley, Graydon Carter

Director: Peter Bogdanovich

“Peter Bogdanovich and his now ex-wife Louise Stratten originally conceived the story for the film, and wrote the screenplay 15 years ago”.

This quote from the film’s invaluable crib sheet/production notes goes a long way towards explaining why the long non-awaited return to the cinema of the once cineaste-favoured director hits the screen with much of the impact of melting candyfloss.

Bogdanovich and Stratten’s strained screenplay is set in New York (which gives far and away the most convincing performance and is attractively filmed by cinematographer Yaron Orbach) in a would-be 1940s-style screwball comedy which screwed few real laughs from me and, to follow in Bogdanovich’s footsteps, could cruelly be described as featuring rather too much balls, rather than the wit and sophistication once associated with the filmmaker.

Clearly morals have changed since the heyday of Lubitsch and his ilk, as the British censor has awarded She’s Funny That Way a 12A (“Suitable for 12 years and over”) certificate.

Interesting, that, for a film whose lauded lead character is call girl Imogen Poots, who makes good after working as a prostitute and is able to abandon the call girl trade and achieve her real ambition to become an actress after satisfied regular client Wilson gives her $30,000 with no strings attached.

Conveniently successful movie and Broadway director Wilson is mounting a new play and, against all logic, Poots wins a role. After which she catalyses the lives and loves of her costars Kathryn Hahn (also Wilson’s wife), co-star Rhys Ifans, who hungers for Hahn, playwright Will Forte (who falls for Poots whose psychiatrist (Jennifer Aniston overacting fit to bust and clearly enjoying her every scene to the hilt and beyond) is Forte’s girlfriend.

And Bogdanovich adds Aniston’s deranged patient and former enjoyer of Poots’ services, Judge Austin Pendleton, Poots’ parents Cybill Shepherd and Richard Lewis and private eye George Morfogen to the hectic brew…

Naturally, everything eventually works out satisfactorily for all concerned, apart, that is, for me.

Having really liked and admired such early Bogdanovich efforts as Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women, What’s Up Doc?, Paper Moon and Nickelodeon, She’s Funny That Way was even more disappointing, coming over as a broad-stroked and not hugely funny parody of the genre it is trying to emulate.

On the credit side, Poots’ American accent is commendable, and occasionally genuine charm and humour break through - but not often enough.

Characters are given to quoting Lubitch’s Cluny Brown with “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?”

Bogdanovich makes sure nobody is going to miss his knowledge of the genre he so signally fails to emulate and includes that dialogue in a clip from Cluny Brown.

He also inserts walk-on guest stars ad lib without much effect, except, I assume, to prove to the audience just how many super show business friend he possesses.

The idea that a date with Quentin Tarantino would be amusing would, surely, only be amusing to Tarantino. Other wasted walk-ons include Joanna Lumley and Tatum O’Neil as well as ‘Vanity Fair’ editor Graydon Carter.

Bogdanovich completists of course, must, see ,em>She’s Funny that Way and savour what laughs there are, while taking refuge in recalling the director’s great movies.

After all, who could fail to double up with helpless laughter at Aniston’s wildly witty line “I’m going to change my tampon”?

And let’s face it, a film in which Rhys Ifans gives one of the most memorable performances is unusual and therefore a must-see movie, to say the least.

Alan Frank

USA 2014. UK Distributor: Lionsgate. Colour.
93 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 2, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 2.

Review date: 26 Jun 2015