She's Funny That Way

 

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The unexpected return of veteran director Peter Bogdanovich yields an old-fashioned but pleasing comedy.

 

Comedy is notoriously a matter of taste and this one, which had garnered some substantial acclaim at the Venice Film Festival in 2014, opened here in June 2015 to decidedly less appreciative reviews. For myself, I have to say that I liked it – not because it offered something new but on the contrary because it was an engaging example of the kind of farce seen so little in recent years.
 

She's Funny That Way

Centre stage: The funny Imogen Poots with Owen Wilson

 

If She’s Funny That Way reminded me of John Turturro’s ill-conceived vehicle for Woody Allen, 2013’s Fading Gigolo, that was because both are comedies involving prostitution, but this piece does it with a deft, light touch that outlaws any serious considerations. Furthermore, it has warmth and charm, not so much for its characters as for a past age of comedy exemplified on stage by the farces of Feydeau. Its setting is New York’s theatreland and that means that you could almost regard it as Birdman without all the pretentiousness. Pace and timing ensure that the film stays lively for 93 minutes and it is played to perfection by a hand-picked cast (see the credits below). The marionettes featured in this farcical round include foolish men among whom we find a stage director, a lead actor and a playwright whose sexual misdemeanours are exposed. They get put in their place by a number of women including the director’s wife, a therapist and a successful actress who was formerly a call girl and whose recollections, suitably embroidered during an interview, give the movie its framework.
 
Arguably what one might call the last Act doesn’t top what has gone before (something that the very best farces do achieve), but this is highly entertaining  stuff that even offers an in-joke for those old enough to remember the 1946 film Cluny Brown and it is topped and tailed with recordings by Fred Astaire.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots, Kathryn Hahn, Will Forte, Rhys Ifans, Jennifer Aniston, Cybil Shepherd, Austin Pendleton, Joanna Lumley, Richard Lewis, Debi Mazar, Illeana Douglas, Jennifer Esposito, Tovah Feldshuh, Lucy Punch, Tatum O'Neal.

 

Dir Peter Bogdanovich, Pro Logan Levy, Holly Wiersma, Louise Stratten and George Drakoulias, Screenplay Stratten and Bogdanovich, Ph Yaron Orbach, Pro Des Jane Musky, Ed Nick Moore and Pax Wasserman, Music Edward Shearmur, Costumes Peggy Schnitzer.

 

Lagniappe Film/Venture Forth/ Three Point Capital/Lailaps Pictures etc.-Lionsgate UK.
94 mins. USA/Germany. 2014. Rel: 26 June 2015. Cert. 12A.