She’s Funny that Way

★★
The latest attempt from the Artist Formerly Known as Peter Bogdanovich.
Movie Review #999

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I’m going to be perfectly honest: I don’t have a single clue why I’m reviewing “She’s Funny that Way”. What’s the point of reviewing a movie if nobody is going to watch it in the first place? Sadly, this has been the case with Peter Bogdanovich’s movies for many years. With one exception (1985’s “Mask”), I’d bet that very few actually remember anything he directed after the 1970s. Until “She’s Funny that Way”, his last film had been 2001’s “The Cat’s Meow”, with Kirsten Dunst and Cary Elwes. If it’s any consolation, I hadn’t heard of the movie, either, and I had no clue that the two of them had actually collaborated.

I’m not exactly sure what Bogdanovich had been during in the fourteen years since, but he clearly wasn’t scouting out ideas for his next movie. You don’t spend fourteen years brainstorming new material, only to settle on something that feels completely unoriginal. Unless you’re senile, which may just be the case with Bogdanovich, at this point. Or perhaps senility isn’t the problem here; maybe Bogdanovich is simply delusional. He seems to truly think that he’s Woody Allen here, and his attitude toward that filmmaker feels like one of creative robbery, not of homage. “She’s Funny that Way” feels like the bastard child that resulted from “Mighty Aphrodite” and “You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger”. Though it’s not as bad as it could have been. I will admit, the film feels a little more modest thanks to Bogdanovich’s decision to rip off two mediocre films, and not one of Allen’s better works.

“She’s Funny that Way” is the story of a prostitute (Imogen Poots) who aspires to become a Broadway star, only to find that she’ll be playing a prostitute onstage if she accepts the role. Meanwhile, the play’s director (Owen Wilson) is paying to have sex with the prostitute regularly, despite the fact that he’s married to a woman who is also in the play (Kathryn Hahn). Things must really suck for the director’s wife, because in this Broadway show, she’s not just co-starring the woman that her husband’s woman on the side, she’s also co-starring with her ex-boyfriend (Rhys Ifans). Oh and the playwright behind the Broadway show (Will Forte) is also interested in the Lady of the Night. Which is odd, because he’s actually married to her therapist (Jennifer Aniston).

I didn’t give any of the characters’ names because there’s no point in trying to remember them. There’s so much tangling and convolution in this plot that trying to keep up with it and not get confused is every bit as difficult as trying to keep up with every name dropped in Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”.

“She’s Funny that Way” does draw the occasional laugh, though. It’s aware of what a mess it is, and so it has a good hand with adding zany humor to its already-zany situations. Then again, there’s also entire characters in the film that serve the sole purpose of caricatures. Jennifer Aniston, for instance, plays a bad therapist blown way out of proportion. It’s supposed to be funny watching her tell all of her patients that their lives are miserable and that they can rectify that by simply not being idiots. Maybe that alone would be funny, but every line she speaks turns into a nonsensical ramble that comes across as awkward rather than amusing. It’s when “She’s Funny that Way” isn’t laboring for comedy that it actually works. Half the time, though, it’s doing just that.

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