Director: Peter Bogdanovich
Runtime: 93 minutes
She’s Funny That Way, Peter Bogdanovich’s tribute and sendup of Hollywood fairy tales, is a film of big ideas and small pleasures. It is the “rags to riches” story of Isabella “Izzy” Beatty (played admirably by Imogen Poots), a prostitute trying to make it to Hollywood. She tells herself that she is a “muse” that inspires men and bring them happiness, and that this is just something she needs to do to make a living.
She gets her big break by working a disenchanted director, Arnold Albertson (Owen Wilson, channeling his performance in Midnight in Paris where he channeled Woody Allen), who offers her thirty-thousand dollars to make him her last customer (a common act of charity from him, we later learn). Of course, he is just chasing the idea of “saving” women from themselves. That brings us to real theme of the film: why do we tell ourselves these fairy tales, and do they make our lives better?
As the film moves on, we get introduced to a number of interconnected characters that are all telling themselves fairy tales about themselves to make it easier to cope with life. Albertson’s next play stars Seth Gilbert (played with delightful sleaze by Rhys Ifans) who has convinced himself that he is in love with his co-star (a wasted Katheryn Hahn in a thankless role) who happens to be Albertson’s wife. Those two are starring in a play written by Joshua Fleet (a forgettable Will Forte) who is interested in Izzy but dating a therapist (an overmatched Jennifer Aniston) who is treating several of the characters. She has convinced herself she can take over her mother’s therapy office despite having no clue what she is doing. You get the idea.
The script just does not do most of these (or any of the many other) characters justice. Considering all the comedic talent on the screen, there are shockingly few laughs mined from them. Instead, you’re left with a trite (if watchable) story where you’re just not terribly emotionally invested in any of the characters, as their stories are neither believable nor funny.
She’s Funny That Way is about the lies we use for ourselves to make it easier to get through our lives. Would it possibly be healthier to look at life more realistically? The film wants us to think otherwise because the truth does not “really have the same magic.” Bogdanovich’s return to film was missing that magic though, and you cannot help but wonder if the story of Isabella Beatty, an oppressed sex worker, would have been better suited for a more “factual” telling.
This film is available on VOD and iTunes. It will have a limited theatrical release starting on August 21, 2015.