out of Five
Running time: 104
Slightly hit-and-miss but still entertaining comedy, thanks to strong comic performances from its supporting cast.
Woody Allen’s previous film, Hollywood Ending still hasn’t been released in this country, so on one level we ought to be glad we’re still getting his movies at all. It is tempting to believe, as with Scorsese, that one day Allen will make a film that’s up there with his best work, but sadly, Anything Else isn’t it.
That said, it isn’t down there with his worst, either, as it has some good gags, a couple of great one-liners and strong comic performances from the likes of DeVito, Stockard Channing and Allen himself.
Aspiring Writer With Nightmare Girlfriend
Jason “Pie-Shagger” Biggs plays Allen-substitute Jerry Falk, an aspiring writer in New York, who falls for a free-spirited young woman named Amanda (Christina Ricci). She’s the ultimate nightmare girlfriend, but of course Jerry just can’t see it, despite her every action screaming “Mentalist! Run away!” For example, when Jerry tries to suggest that they have a problem, she replies, “Just because when you touch me, I pull away?” and instigates a six month ban on sex.
Meanwhile, Jerry has other problems, such as his overly emotional agent (Danny DeVito) as well as the trouble he gets into by following the increasingly erratic advice of his mentor, David Dobel (Woody Allen).
Allen’s decision to play a supporting role pays great dividends, not least because we’re spared the sight of him kissing Christina Ricci. The best running joke in the film is that Dobel repudiates everything usually associated with Allen’s characters, pouring scorn on psychoanalysis (“You chose psychoanalysis over real life? Are you learning-disabled?”) and philosophical introspection, as well as insisting that “Funny is money” when it comes to writing.
It also becomes clear that Dobel is a ticking time-bomb of disaster, which pays off beautifully with the funniest scene in the film – the sight of Allen succumbing to road rage and smashing up someone’s car.
Lead Roles Not Particularly Likeable
The main problem with the film is that neither Biggs nor Ricci are all that likeable. Biggs does his best, but struggles with the weight of narrating the film to camera. We know Biggs can be funny, but Allen refuses to allow him any real comedy moments, despite the odd one-liner, such as “The doctor had better sex examining her than I’d had in six months”. Similarly, Allen never allows us to see what attracted Biggs to Ricci in the first place.
The main reason to see the film then, are the supporting performances, particularly Stockard Channing as Amanda’s larger-than-life mother and
DeVito, whose ‘break-up’ scene in the restaurant is another highlight.
In short, Anything Else may not be a return to form for Allen, but it still delivers its fair share of laughs. Flawed, but worth seeing.