Whenever I see a Twitter or Facebook profile along the lines of “I bring the funny every day,” or “Fresh and hilarious opinions served up in bite-sized bits,” I proceed with caution.
People who open by telling you they’re witty are usually mildly funny at best.
So it is with “She’s Funny That Way,” which strives hard to replicate the screwball comedy but ends up being a lot more screwball than comedy.
This is the first feature film from Peter Bogdanovich since 2001’s “The Cat’s Meow” (and we shall forever be grateful to Bogdanovich for the 1970s classics “The Last Picture Show” and “Paper Moon”). The cast includes a roster of welcome faces from Owen Wilson to Richard Lewis to Jennifer Aniston to Will Forte to Rhys Ifans and Cybill Shepherd.
And that just makes it all the more disappointing.
Owen Wilson, ever so slightly removed (ahem) from the Texas family man he plays in the gruesome thriller “No Escape,” plays Arnold, a Broadway director with a thing for hookers. Arnold fancies himself as a sort of Henry Higgins for these prostitutes — providing the means and opening the doors for them to leave the world’s oldest profession behind and do something else with their lives.
In a performance that grates the nerves, the British actress Imogen Poots works the New Yawk accent to death as Izzy, an aspiring actress who calls herself a muse, when in reality she’s a call girl. Wilson’s Arnold — who by the way is married with children — spends the night with Izzy and is so smitten, he offers her a wad of dough if she’ll quit the profession and pursue her dreams.
Let the madcap coincidental errors begin!
Izzy ends up in a play, acting alongside Arnold’s wife (Kathryn Hahn) and a Hollywood movie star (Rhys Ifans) who once had a thing with Arnold’s wife and also happens to know about Arnold’s history with Izzy. Further complicating matters, the playwright (Will Forte) falls under Izzy’s spell, even though he has a girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston). Oh, and the playwright’s girlfriend? She’s Izzy’s psychiatrist.
If you’re lost, join the team. And those interconnected complications represent maybe half of the story threads weaving (and often unraveling) in “She’s Funny That Way.”
Nearly every scene features a crazy cameo. Look: It’s Quentin Tarantino! Michael Shannon! Tatum O’Neal!
The actors do their best with a hit-and-miss screenplay. In pacing and tone, Bogdanovich clearly wants us to feel nostalgia for Preston Sturges or 1970s Woody Allen.
Instead, it just feels dated.