EIFF 2015 – She’s Funny That Way
The Peter Bogdanovich directed She’s Funny That Way is the rags to riches story of a call girl who gets a lucky break that helps her achieve her dream.
Isabella Patterson (Imogen Poots) acts as the protagonist here as the story is framed through her account of the events that got her to where she is. In a nutshell; Isabella -0r Izzie- as she would prefer to be own works as a call girl -or Muse as she calls it- to support herself. Her life is changed after an encounter with Owen Wilson’s Arnold Albertson -going by Derek when he’s with her- presents her with the opportunity to leave her life of prostitution behind and pursue her dream when he offers her an absurd amount of money.
From the beginning Izzie is set up as an old fashioned romantic who believes in magic and miracles along with all the other Golden Age of Hollywood stuff. It’s an interesting counter to her more pragmatic attitude when it comes to working. She realises that miracles are very unlikely but remains optimistic anyway.
Her outlook becomes very important to holding this film together as Bogdanovich does everything he can to craft a homage to those old style films starring the likes of Audrey Hepburn. It seems to be at least partly designed as a comment on how romantic comedies are made now and makes some effort to distance itself from them.
It’s an admirable effort but it didn’t quite work for me as it tends to fall back on many of the things I don’t like about these sorts of films. The biggest blocker for me is that I didn’t find any of the characters the least bit likeable. The closest was Izzy but even she was really irritating most of the time. I’m not even sure why there was just something about her that came across as irritating.
The rest of the characters were all liars and cheats. No amount of financial gifts to change the life of a call girl can convince me that Arnold is anything more than a serial adulterer. Granted his wife isn’t exactly a saint either but I never got a sense of why he felt the need to travel from place to place and do this to her. It is mentioned that his financial gifts are as much for him as they are for the girls and I fully agree with that. His character comes across as very self centered and really wants people to see him as a nice guy.
One thing that constantly had me scratching my head is Jennifer Aniston’s Jane Claremont who has no business being a therapist given how terribly she treats her patients. No doubt she charges a fortune to belittle people in her office. How she hasn’t been investigated and had her license taken away is beyond me.
This probably seems like I’m reading too much into it and this might be the case but I found these sorts of questions frequently cropping up as the film went on. The way that these characters constantly crossed paths at the exact moment that they shouldn’t to preserve their lies was a little too ridiculous for me especially with the film being set in Manhattan and not a small town.
I understand that there’s supposed to be a larger than life coincidental nature about the whole thing and I would have forgiven it if the results were entertaining. The trouble was that there was little entertainment to be taken from these various screaming matches that erupted. There was some awkward comedy that actually worked but on the whole it was a mess to watch unfold. At least I got to see Owen Wilson’s slimy Arnold take a few well earned punches to the face.
I’ve been pretty harsh on this film and fully accept that it really wasn’t for me. I tend to have trouble with romantic comedies for the most part so find them difficult to engage with at the best of times. I actually had high hopes in the beginning with discussions of the Golden Age of Hollywood when films were made about these miraculous events that I could actually find myself enjoying.
In a lot of cases the cast did a really good job. Despite irritating me I found Imogen Poots to be very good in her role and as far as I could tell her Brooklyn accent was all but flawless. Owen Wilson plays the same role he does in every film I’ve seen him in so if that’s something you like then you’ll love this. Jennifer Aniston can shout a good game as well so no real issues there. I’m sure Will Forte was fine but his character was so bland that it’s hard to tell. I could go on but sufficed to say the cast all played their parts well. As I’ve said this film comes down to taste and it wasn’t really to mine.
Some strong acting and a promising setup aren’t enough to redeem this messy story in my eyes.
The film starts out strong with Imogen Poots’ Izzy recounting the events that led her to the present and doing so with a wide eyed optimism harkening back to the old days of Audrey Hepburn in the Golden Age of Hollywood. Her outlook carries the central theme of the film which serves as a homage to more old school romantic film storytelling.
Unfortunately the film falls short of succeeding on this for me with a cast of irredeemably unlikeable characters to follow through all of this. Every single character is a liar and cheat who gets on at other people for lying and cheating. It’s hard to stay engaged when everyone is acting so horribly and trying to justify it to themselves and the audience.
The farcical nature of these characters constantly crossing paths at exactly the wrong moment despite the fact that the film is set in Manhattan and such an onslaught of coincidences are highly unlikely. I do appreciate that there’s supposed to be a larger than life style about the whole thing but the fact that none of these scenes were entertaining lifted me out of it.
I’m not saying that this film is terrible but I will say that it definitely wasn’t for me. I have trouble engaging with romantic comedies at the best of times and I don’t think this is a particularly strong example. I will say that the acting was very strong despite the fact that I didn’t like any of the characters. Owen Wilson pretty much proves that he is only capable of playing the same character he has for years but he’s good at it if you like that sort of performance from him. Imogen Poots does a great job and pulls off a pretty flawless Brooklyn accent.
I can’t personally recommend this as something to watch but as I’ve said if you’re into romantic comedies and some of these actors in general then absolutely check it out. You will probably have a better time than I did.