Venice Film Festival: She’s Funny That Way

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Starring Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots, Rhys Ifans, Will Forte, Kathryn Hahn, Cybill Shepherd, Richard Lewis and Jennifer Aniston
In UK Cinemas June 26th, 2015

by Ruth Thomson

Acclaimed writer/director Peter Bogdanovich has brought his first film in thirteen years to this year’s Venice Film Festival and has clearly had a good deal of fun with it along the way. Billed as a screwball comedy it certainly has a strong whiff of the past about it – as well as much that brings Woody Allen to mind, from the romanticized glow of New York City to the heartwarming presence of an endearing hooker, and his most convincing twenty first century leading man; the endlessly charming Owen Wilson.

Wilson plays theatre director Arnold Albertson – or Derek Thomas as he’s known to the many young prostitutes (or call girls as they’re called here just to take the edge off) that he has bedded and benefactored. The one that causes his comeuppance here is Izzy, or Isabella as she likes to be known when inevitably pursuing an acting career – an impressive as always Imogen Poots who is only slightly undone by her attempt at a broad Brooklyn accent. Needless to say the day after their night of passion Izzy unexpectedly arrives to audition for Arnold and has to read against his wife Delta (the brilliant Kathryn Hahn) whilst leading man Seth Gilbert (Rhys Ifans) who happens to be in love with Delta looks on with glee having seen Izzy depart Arnold’s hotel room in the middle of the night. Playwright Josh (Will Forte) falls for Izzy despite having a girlfriend, manic therapist Jane (a brilliant Jennifer Aniston) who struts out of one scene with the memorable line ‘I need to change my tampon’. Jane’s latest clients coincidentally include the previously mentioned Izzy and an elderly Judge who can’t get over his obsession with a beguiling young call girl (guess who) and has taken out a private investigator to follow her. There’s plenty of inevitable set pieces – all involved end up in the same Italian restaurant on the same night (cue hiding behind menus/trying to escape out of bathroom windows), call girls (yes more of them) arrive at the wrong hotel rooms and have to hide behind shower curtains, you know the drill.

The film is firmly rooted in the past with Derek/Albert’s repeated line to his conquests, which culminates with the phrase ‘squirrels to the nuts’, having been plucked directly from Ernst Lubitsch’s 1946 satire Cluny Brown and it’s true that Bogdanovich, who mastered the art of screwball many decades ago (1972’s What’s Up, Doc?), hasn’t broken any boundaries here. But his ensemble cast – particularly Wilson, Aniston and Ifans – are all doing exactly what they do best, and with a host of other entertaining cameos (Richard Lewis, Cybill Shepherd, Quentin Tarantino) this is a highly enjoyable tribute to comedic times past by a man who has every right to indulge himself and us in a hearty dose of cinematic nostalgia.

One Response to “Venice Film Festival: She’s Funny That Way”

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