In the screwball comedy She’s Funny That Way, Peter Bogdanovich shows us his best attempt at a Woody Allen film; the only problem being, he’s not Woody Allen. It is sad to say that this well intentioned comedy misses the mark as the farcical events inevitably lead to a cluttered and messy film which fails to grasp modern day reality and leaves the vast amount of the audience disinterested by the time it reaches the latter part of the ninety minutes.
The film almost immediately shows its lack of understanding of the real world through the wealthy Arnold’s (Owen Wilson) encounter with the female lead, the down on her luck prostitute Izzy/ Glo (Imogen Poots). Arnold attempts to heroically lift Izzy from her plight through a large amount of financial aid; however it does not come across this way to the audience. It instead appears a sleazy and misogynistic gesture on screen that makes most viewers feel uneasy. One of the film’s most uncomfortable moments comes when it is revealed that this is not a one-time occurrence, Wilson’s character gallivants around New York giving these generous donations to feed his own ego. However, to his credit, Wilson is still, somehow, able to portray Arnold as a nice, kind-hearted man who gains sympathy at several points in the film.
After this initial encounter, the film begins to introduce several more characters at a breakneck pace; all of which somehow interlock in a strange and completely unrealistic way. It feels as though Bogdanovich felt that all that was needed to make this film successful was to hire a large helping of star power and then throw it all into several poorly written and nonsensical scenes. Although some of these performances such as the therapist Jane (Jennifer Aniston) are quite amusing and the sleazy Seth Gilbert (Rhys Ifans) is easy to despise, the scenes were these stars collide are often ruined by the unfunny and cringe worthy appearances of Judge Pendergast (Austin Pendleton). His attempts to stalk Izzy do not create humour in the slightest and if anything are unsettling. Add into this mess the irony of a private detective aiming to find Izzy whilst his son casts her in a play and you just create a cinematic shambles.
Bogdanovich also fails to capture the setting as, despite clearly being set in modern day New York, the film feels to be lost in a forgotten time period. To take the busiest city in the world and have several characters meet at every single opportunity pushes the realms of possibility even for a screwball comedy. Also it appears that the film wants to portray Izzy as a 1950’s-esque character which just categorically does not work. However Poots’ makes the most of the role given to her as Izzy is the only character that appears to have a great deal of depth. Her character is one of the few positives of the film and gives a clear indication as to why Poots is a star is rising in Hollywood.
It is a real shame that this film is littered with chaos and is heavily outdated as behind this is a well-acted good natured screwball. There are still parts which are very enjoyable such as the several therapy scenes and the interview that the film intercuts of Izzy also proves entertaining. However these highlights are few and far between and there are not enough of them to deliver a movie worthy of the star power invested into it.