The imperative for going to the movies was that The Daughter’s favorite
babysitterchild watcher would soon be going away to college, in Ohio. The Wife suggested that we see She’s Funny That Way. I had never heard of it, knew nothing about it.
We’re sitting in a none-too-crowded room at the Spectrum Theatre waiting for the story to develop, involving this guy Arnold (Owen Wilson) arranging for a call girl, Isabella (a UK actress named Imogen Poots), but then makes her a different type of proposition that can get out of “the life,” and onto the path of what she wants to be, which is an actress.
At some point, these two women in the theater start laughing hysterically, and we’re not “getting” it. It turns out that an actor one of them knows, Austin Pendleton, is playing Judge Pendergast, who had previously had been with Isabella, and is distraught when her former madame (Debi Mazar as Vickie) tells him that Isabella has retired. Apparently, Pendleton is playing against type.
Soon enough, though, The Wife and I start laughing, occasionally vigorously. I’ve seen the film described as a screwball comedy, which I suppose it is, but it also reminded me of one of those Shakespeare comedies of coincidence, where Arnold is producing a play, which features his wife, Delta (Kathryn Hahn), and an aging Lothario who may have slept with Delta (Seth, Rhys Ifans), and the playwright (Joshua, Wil Forte) falls for the auditioning actress playing a hooker, the aforementioned Isabella.
The working title of the film was Squirrels to the Nuts, a line referenced a few times in the movie, which came from a 1946 comedy Cluny Brown, starring Charles Boyer and Jennifer Jones.
I kept thinking this felt like a Woody Allen pic, in part because of Wilson, who I last saw in Woody’s Midnight in Paris. But in fact, the story was directed and co-written by Peter Bogdanovich. The movie even had small roles for Bogdanovich alums Cybill Shepherd as Isabella’s mom, and Tatum O’Neal as a waitress.
Jennifer Aniston was particularly strong as Jane, who seems to be the shrink for many of them, and quite terrible at it. Someone pointed out a possible goof: “When Jane lets the German Shepherd, Shep, into a taxi, she says, ‘Good girl.’ Later she refers to him as a male: ‘Come on, boy.'” But Jane’s character was so self-absorbed that I wouldn’t doubt she didn’t KNOW the gender of her own canine.
The weakest link, unfortunately, was Poots, as the lead. Among other things, her Noo Yawk, or more specifically, Brooklyn accent was terrible. But the cast surrounding her, which also included Richard Lewis as her father, and Illeana Douglas as the bored reporter, were fine.
I had a debate with my wife whether Rhys Ifans could be a convincing sex symbol, to which I said, “Mick Jagger.” That was a convincing point, she acknowledged.
It’s not a great film, but there are hilarious moments. So I give it a mild thumbs up.