DIR: Peter Bogdanovich • WRI: Peter Bogdanovich, Louise Stratten • PRO: George Drakoulias, Logan Levy, Louise Stratten, Holly Wiersma • ED: Nick Moore, Pax Wassermann • DOP: Yaron Orbach • DES: Jane Musky • MUS: Ed Shearmur • Cast: Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Will Forte, Kathryn Hahn, Rhys Ifans
She’s Funny That Way starts off with a wistful nod to the masterpieces of Hollywood past in a fairly persuasive burst of nostalgia. New star-on-the-rise Isabella Patterson (played by Imogen Poots) tries to convince a fairly cynical journalist that she really does believe in Hollywood fairytales, insisting that she prefers a ‘good yarn’ that doesn’t let little details like the truth get in the way. What follows is her story of the chance encounter that allowed her to become a rising star.
Arnold Albertson, (Owen Wilson), is a fairly reputable director about to start work on a new Broadway production. Being away from his wife for the night before she comes to New York to star in the play, he takes the opportunity to afford himself the company of an escort, who just so happens to be our young Isabella. During their encounter, he wines her, he dines her, he treats her like she’s never been treated before and he makes her a once in a lifetime deal; if she can promise to walk away from prostitution for good, he’ll give her enough money to change her life forever. That’s right, he’s trying to “Pretty Woman” her! After some small amount of thought, she accepts and starts her brand new life as an actor and the two part ways, never to see each other again.
Except that the title of this film could have just as easily been “Wrong Places, Wrong Times”, because the entire plot seems to be made entirely of people being at the same place at someone they’re trying to hide from, a preposterous number of coincidences and a surprisingly large number of affairs for a fairly small group of characters. Naturally, Isabella auditions for a part in Albert’s play and the first of the dominoes falls. This is complicated just a little by the fact that she was seen leaving the director’s hotel room by one of her potential co-stars (Rhys Ifans) and that the playwright (a wonderfully understated Will Forte) has taken a shine to her. This is not highbrow humour, but it is a wonderfully crafted web of coincidences and colliding worlds and once you accept that this is just the type of movie you’re watching, it becomes a much more enjoyable experience.
The cast is excellent, with Imogen Poots delivering a charming and sympathetic performance as a woman trying to make the best of her situation, with a Brooklyn accent which is only quite distracting. Wilson and Forte, two comic actors who often excel when letting themselves go over the top, deliver top-notch turns as the straight-men in their outrageous situations. Jennifer Aniston lends her well-established skill at portraying women you wouldn’t want to mess with to a strong role as a bitter and judgemental therapist who doesn’t seem to get why people always come to her with their problems. In addition to the main roles, there are a number of high-profile cameos and some very clever nods to cinema classics.
She’s Funny That Way doesn’t bring much new to the table but it’s a fun watching experience with a plot that would feel over the top if it had half the level of coincidence, but which feels just right as it is; clever and funny, a yarn that doesn’t let the facts get in the way.
15A (See IFCO for details)
She’s Funny That Way is released 26th June 2015