Peter Bogdanovich's She's Funny That Way is exactly the kind of film that isn't made any more; a manic, silly comedy helmed by an ensemble cast made for adults. The film adheres to the wry comedic style of Woody Allen, who rigorously churned out films like these in the 1970's and 1980's, and a style that Allen continues to play with in the modern day. With a breezy eighty minute runtime and a comedic cast that, for once, looks like they're actually having a great time with one another, this is a film that can skate by and leave you with a goofy grin on your face before cynicism even has time summon.
The film revolves around a hooker named Isabella Beatty (Imogen Poots), who became a Broadway thespian following a gracious break from Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson), a Broadway director who frequents escorts despite being married to Delta (Kathryn Hahn), a Broadway star herself. Arnold is filthy rich, for that matter, and upon paying escorts for their services, he'll also gift them with $30,000 to get their life moving in the right direction, all under Delta's nose. Meanwhile, a playwright named Joshua (Will Forte) begins to fall in love with Isabella, despite dating Jane Claremont (Jennifer Aniston), a bitter and hot-tempered therapist. Finally, there's also Seth (Rhys Ifans), an actor of Arnold's who also frequents escort services whilst trying to balance his exploding level of popularity.
This conglomeration of characters make She's Funny That Way a film that consistently moves and never slows down. The persistent weaving and fluid profiling of each and every character in the film is what largely makes the film such a good time. While the characters may often be contemptible, the situational humor mimics the sort of awkwardness and indecisive etiquette occurrences examined in your average episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm, although with decidedly more theatricalities and far-fetched circumstances.
The cast here feels right at home. We have low-key performers that go under the radar far too often (Poots, Ifans, and Forte) and we have seasoned veterans trying their hand at the personalities they accentuate the best (Aniston and Wilson). Moreover, though, everyone feels like they're enjoying themselves. This isn't a film to take very seriously, nor is it a film that gets hung up on vulgarities and stupidity. It's the rare adult comedy with the energy of a kids film but the brazen personality that can accompany any night filled with wine, good friends - even a date - and a fulfilling dinner.
One of the biggest problems I've seen with American cinema is, despite R-rated comedies, few comedies are really designed for adults. Paradoxically, R-rated films like Get Hard and The Hangover sequels have jokes that would make teenagers laugh out loud, but many adults turn the other cheek, though they are the audience that will be allowed in the film at the local multiplex. She's Funny That Way is a film that bears a crass sense but in a way that isn't over-the-top or in love with the idea of making the viewer uncomfortable based on situations involving bodily fluids or intercourse. Co-writer (along with Louis Stratten) Bogdanovich works to make the film a more humble comedy, where the awkward situations are made funny by the characters and not the inanity of the situations themselves.
This is a smartly written film, one that really is elevated by the performers, though they, for once, aren't ostensibly trying to mask the low-level quality of the writing. She's Funny That Way packs a lot of manic energy in its eighty minutes, including great displays of character acting and plenty of nods to film lovers. Nuts to the squirrels indeed.
Starring: Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots, Will Forte, Jennifer Aniston, Kathryn Hahn, and Rhys Ifans. Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich.