She’s Funny That Way, 2015
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Starring Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Rhys Ifans, Kathryn Hahn, Will Forte, Illeana Douglas, Debi Mazar, Richard Lewis, Cybill Shepard, Austin Pendleton and Jennifer Aniston
A screwball comedy featuring the interconnected personal lives of the cast and crew of a Broadway production.
They don’t make ’em like they used. The eternal cry from many film fans across different walks of life whilst watching what new fads and trendy hip subjects have found themselves at the centre of the Hollywood Babylon. There are those who hate modern blockbusters and prefer their summer entertainment more, well, summery, while many hate the crassness of modern comedies, instead choosing to revisit the Golden Era when Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn were trading blows in the “battle of the sexes”. So its somewhat surprising to report that one of this summer’s big comedies is trying to do exactly that, to whisk not to far-away galaxies, but instead take a trip back to an era as golden and the July sun.
From the first moments Peter Bogdanovich’s She’s Funny That Way, there is an upbeat feel about proceedings that is impossible to dislike as Illena Douglas’ journalist sits down to interview call-girl-turned-acting sensation Isabella Patterson (Poots) about her big break. From there, we are whisked into the world of Broadway by way of angry psychiatrists, horny professors and a whole host of sexual shenanigans as Isabella is thrust into the world of theatre, and with it a reunion with her favourite client, Arnold Albertson (Wilson), who happens to be directing the play she has been cast in. Which stars his wife, Delta (Hayn). And Delta’s longtime secret love, Seth (Ifans). And is written by a man who is infatuated with her (Forte). The magic of Broadway…
A love letter to the classic screwball comedies of the 1930’s and 1940’s that brought such names as Howard Hawks and Frank Capra to prominence, She’s Funny That Way has infectious energy right from the off and doesn’t let up until the final crazy frames. Bogdanovich, out of the game for so long since his last foray into film making back in 1990, still has enough magic to get the best out of the film, keeping proceedings at a brisk, sharp pace. It’s in the actual comedy however where the film falls short, and no amount of nostalgia and longing can make up for a sporadic amount of laughs, despite the nature of the film or indeed the calibre of cast.
Poots, in her highest-profile role of her still-fledgling career, performs well in the “title” role as the hooker with a heart of gold (as well as nailing the Brooklyn accent), but Isabella still feels, like much of the screenplay, dreadfully underdeveloped. Aniston is as solid and dependable as ever, while Wilson performs his usual charming-but-gawky routine to his usual level, but is well off his better recent performances such as the delightful Midnight In Paris.
The stellar turn here is from Kathyrn Hahn, whose acting star is definitely on the rise. After she made headway with bit-parts, it was her hilariously wild performance in Step Brothers, and later in criminally underseen Afternoon Delight by way of Sam Mendes’ Revolutionary Road, did Hahn begin her descent up the Hollywood ladder. Here as Wilson’s wife Delta, she illuminates throughout the film with her expert comic timing and exuberance, and helps lift proceedings when they look like running out of steam.
While it lacks the true magic and charm of the films it tries to celebrate, it’s hard not to be swept up in the frivolousness of She’s Funny That Way. The cast are uniformally watchable, with Kathyrn Hahn’s Delta the delightful stand-out, and its a very welcome sight indeed to see a master such as Bogdanovich return for one last hurrah. Charming but ultimately forgettable, She’s Funny That Way is a decent enough antidote for those sick of the wizz-bang of summer season.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★