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Film review: She’s Funny That Way, Peter Bogdanovich’s screwball comedy

The director's first film in 13 years, this story of a married theatre director with a penchant for call girls is told in brisk, breezy style and executed with panache

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 August, 2015, 5:06am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 September, 2015, 5:58pm

Some 13 years since his last feature film, The Cat’s Meow, Peter Bogdanovich returns with a fast-breaking screwball comedy reminiscent of his early works What’s Up, Doc? and They All Laughed. Originally titled “Squirrels to the Nuts” – a direct quote from genre  maestro Ernst Lubitsch’s Cluny Brown – it sees Owen Wilson play Arnold Albertson, a married theatre director mounting his latest New York production.

Arnold is prone to offering call-girls cash windfalls to start a new life, and when he meets his latest lady of the night, aspiring actress Izzy (Imogen Poots), he proposes to give her US$30,000. But that’s just the beginning of an increasingly frantic maze of a story involving an elderly judge, rival actors, a playwright and even an indiscreet psychologist, played with unabashed relish by Jennifer Aniston.

Co-written by Bogdanovich with his ex-wife Louise Stratten – it was originally meant for the late John Ritter to star – the story is brisk, breezy and executed with panache. Bar one gag about a tampon, the script doesn’t resort to contemporary Hollywood’s baser instincts. Wilson is an amiable lead, while British actress Poots handles her role with consummate conviction.

With some amusing cameos (not least Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter as a limo driver), there’s enough here to spirit you along, assuming you’re game for a farce. There’s neat support too from Nebraska star Will Forte, as the scribe whose play “A Grecian Urn” brings all the characters together, as well as Kathryn Hahn, as Albert’s diva-actress wife. Silly but it’s funny that way.

She’s Funny That Way opens on August 27