She’s Funny That Way – Review by C.K. MacNamara
Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Starring: Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots, Kathryn Hahn, Rhys Ifans
Peter Boogdanovich’s She’s Funny That Way attempts to strike out at the classic screwball comedy with an arsenal of cheesy 70s quirk, obscure references, and a who’s-who of cameos. And while it may miss the mark in the end, the journey is an overall joy.
Set in a New York City consisting of one restaurant, one hotel and one call girl service the characters are established and then left to tangle in a series of intertwining subplots. While this device of having a dozen subplots weave together into an overarching story is nothing new, it is the 24 karat performances of the characters that drives the story and saves it from slipping into the realm of the contrived.
Owen Wilson’s portrayal of a married Broadway director far from home, to whom monogamy is just a theory, is the narrative lynchpin as he drifts through the lives of desperate girls, leaving life changing cash deposits and cheesy quotes pulled from the screwball comedies of the 1940’s. This journey of hopeless romanticism inevitably catches up with him when one of the call-girls whom he pushed into following her dreams reappears as the star of his upcoming play. At the same time his lead character (Rhys Ifans) is attempting to poach his wife/actress (Kathryn Hahn).
From the setup alone one can deduce the overall plot, and while many scenes suffer from over conveniences and outright plot holes to get characters in a room together, the genuine moments of comedy help disguise some of the more glaring drawbacks.
However, throughout the film there is a distinct waft of ‘trying too hard’ and like a comedian trying to utilize his entire repertoire into a single joke, the audience are more often than not beaten over the head with the comedic elements rather than presented with them. This is especially true in the final scenes, as cameo after cameo is shoehorned in for little other reason than ‘oh look, he’s in this’.
Overall, a delicate (often fragile) comedy that thrives on its stellar performances, but brings more to the table than is required. Though given what it gets right this over preparedness is a minor quibble on the fringe of an otherwise shining film.