She’s Funny That Way (2014)

A married Broadway director falls for a prostitute-turned-actress and works to help her advance her career.

Directed by Peter Bogdanovic
Starring Owen Wilson, Kathryn Hahn, Imogen Poots, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Aniston, Will Forte
Given the eclectic script, the New York setting and the appearance of Owen Wilson, you could be forgiven for thinking that this had Woody Allen’s influence lurking at least somewhere. In fact, this film is as good an example as any of looking up what you’re going to watch before you take your seat as my initial fears that this would be more He’s Just Not That Into You and less Funny Girl were thankfully unfounded.

That isn’t to say that this comes close to approaching the vaudevillian delights of Barbra Streisand and Omar Sharif, but nonetheless, this is a good deal more sophisticated than you might expect, with Peter Bogdanovich directing and co-writing the script with ex-wife Louise Stratten. Filmed as far back as July 2013 (shooting took 29 days) and arriving via the Venice and Toronto film festivals, this enforced period of gestation seems to have had little harm on the project or the stars who have been suitably busy in the meantime.

As is the norm with such things, my interest was piqued mainly by the fact that Jennifer (lovely Jennifer) Aniston was taking part, joining an enviable ensemble of main characters and likeable, unexpected cameos. A veritable collection of luvvies have gathered for a new Broadway production and director of the show Owen Wilson (yes, really) is up to his old tricks of bedding prostitutes and then giving them vast sums of money in some thinly veiled guilty excuse for treating them like sex objects. The first of these ladies of the night we are introduced to Isabella (Poots) who is only doing it to fund her acting career, which must be said is not going well.

As luck would have it, she auditions for the lead role in the very same play that her last client (Wilson) has undertaken to direct. She proves to be something of a hit with the cast members already hired and, despite Wilson’s protestations, succeeds in landing the part. Cue much hilarious shenanigans where hotel rooms become as much part of the plot as the characters themselves and the whole thing does its best to descend into farce without actually quite managing it, a fact for which we should be grateful, as that would have been rightly frightful on this occasion. Farce has its place, of course, it just really isn’t here.

Overall, a forgettable New York story with respectful nods to Woody, but this is a world away from the great mans’ best work. There is nothing wrong with the performances per se, but the casting will raise a few eyebrows. Bogdanovic rallied the luvvies well enough, but the difference here is engagement and you will know that when you see it.

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