More often than not, a romantic comedy is ridiculed by critics because of its formulaic storyline. Not to mention, a relationship doesn’t work the same way that it does in the movie. It’s an illusion, which is why we find ourselves falling in-and-out of love with these typical rom-coms. A classic style of romantic comedy offers us a sense of escapism through the characters’ relationship, but when we think about it, it’s the kind of relationship that rarely happens in real life.
Director Peter Bogdanovich clearly understands how the formula works, which is why he decided to put his own flavour into his 1st feature film in 12 years – “She’s Funny That Way”.
The movie centres around Isabella “Izzy” Patterson (played by Imogen Poots), a Brooklyn-born call girl whose life is turned for the better after an assignation at the Barclay Hotel in Manhattan with a client called Derek. Izzy, who aspires to be an actress, is offered $30,000 to do something else with her life. With that huge sum of money, she is ready to take on a life-changing journey by auditioning for a new play called “A Grecian Morning” in Broadway. Little did she know, she bumps into Derek again, who also turns out to be Arnold Albertson (played by Owen Wilson), the director of the play. This leads them to be stuck in a very awkward situation, where all the secrets and lies are ready to be blown out of proportion.
Basically, this is a wacky parody version of a typical rom-com as it clearly pokes fun at its formulaic love story with a series of unexpected events that clashes together. We wouldn’t mind watching it again because there are a lot of funny moments that would elicit extreme laughter from the audiences. It also helps that movie features a number of cameo appearances by actors and actresses, as well as a surprise appearance by a famed director too.
However, one thing that I need to nitpick is the way the director framed the story. Since the beginning of the film, the director already indicated that the story will be told in flashback as Izzy is now a sophisticated Broadway thespian who is being interviewed by a journalist (played by Illeana Douglas). It didn’t make sense for some of the characters’ stories to be fleshed out in the movie if Izzy wasn’t there to truly see nor experience it.
In addition, everything seemed to have been conveniently put together as there were just too many coincidences featured in a movie. Sure, a former call girl does bump into her former client at a random place because this is exactly how Izzy bumps into Arnold in a play that a legendary actor Seth Gilbert (played by Rhys Ifans) and his wife, Delta (played by Kathyn Hahn), are also acting in.
But in a twist of comedic fate, the playwright Joshua (played by Will Forte) falls head over heels for Izzy, even though he is already dating her therapist, Jane (played by Jennifer Aniston). Her therapist also has a client (played by Austin Pendleton) who becomes so obsessed with Izzy to the point of hiring a private detective (played by George Morfogen). As expected, the detective turns out to be Joshua’s dad.
As the story progresses, the continual chance meetings made it obvious that their lives were perfectly crafted by Bogdanovich and his ex-wife Louise Stratten, taking away the real fun of the movie.
You can see why “She’s Funny That Way” is formerly known as “Squirrel to the Nuts” because it is the key phrase that comes into a full comedic effect throughout the movie. But of course, this is also because there’s an issue with translating the former title. Although the phrase was used for a different purpose in the movie, the mid-credits scene showed that it is originated from Ernst Lubitsch’s 1946 movie, “Cluny Brown”.
It may come as a surprise to you that “The Grand Budapest Hotel” director Wes Anderson came board of this movie as an executive producer alongside Noah Baumbach. Bogdanovich and Stratten also originally conceived the idea of developing this film in the 1990s, with John Ritter in mind for the lead. When Ritter passed away, the script was put on hold until Anderson and Baumbach agreed to offer their backing to get the film made. The film, which was filmed in 29 days in New York, was also produced by George Drakoulias, Logan Levy, and Holly Wiersma.
A round of applause should be given to Aniston, who successfully captured audiences’ attention towards her character. Though she was featured in the film as a supporting role, her character’s abrasive attitude helped build a long-lasting impression on the movie.
Other than that, Wilson also successfully made his character seemed a tad witty and charming with his laid-back attitude. It helped that he treated Poots’ character and all the other call girls in a very nice way so that he doesn’t come off as an extremely sleazy character.
Bogdanovich clearly hasn’t lost his charm in mastering the screwball comedy style since 1972’s “What’s Up, Doc?”. That having said, the movie could have been made better because its storyline seemed a little dated.
“She’s Funny That Way” is slated for release in Malaysia on 7th May 2015.