Review: She's Funny That Way
Framing a film by having a hyperbolic storyteller admit preferring the fanciful to the factual is not only clever, but more fun. The audience may scoff at the absurd coincidences otherwise that ensue, but it’s those coincidences that make for a more enjoyable, silly lark.
So if she’s the one telling the story, how can you blame her for having some fun with it?
An unabashed screwball comedy, She’s Funny That Way efficiently ushers its confident way through hysterical circumstances, utterly familiar yet still vibrant. Imogen Poots plays a Hollywood ingénue, a rising starlet with a sordid past that she is more than willing to share with a reporter; and the audience.
So Isabella, this attention-loving Brooklynite, one who is in love with being in love, spins a yarn about her days as a classy escort, and the men who fell for her. The main one is Arnold (Owen Wilson), a lover of paid-company and a theatre director who is more than happy to support his female companions to follow their dreams outside the prostitution business.
Of course he is married, with kids, and his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) is an actress in Arnold’s new stage play. The male lead in this production is a European romantic (Rhys Ifans) who has a past with Delta. The ineffectual screenwriter (Will Forte) meanwhile is dating cantankerous diva (Jennifer Aniston), a woman forced to take over her mom’s therapy duties after she goes into rehab. Hint: she’s not good at it.
So things quickly become complicated when Isabella, an aspiring actress, tries out for this stage play, unbeknownst to Arnold, after the two have slept together. She is too good to pass up, but while she is looking to leave behind the escort world, she solicits advice from her new therapist (ahem), while being pursued by an older client who has fallen crazy in love with her.
Screwball, indeed. Directed by Peter Bogdanovih on a script he co-wrote with Louise Stratten, She’s Funny holds dearly on to the past, recalling starlets and films younger viewers will have forgotten, and older ones will prefer more, toeing the line between homage and derivative. Still, if it does nothing but bring back the phrase ‘squirrels to the nuts,’ then there’s something worthwhile.
The coincidences and run-ins are absurdly delightful, held loosely together by the ridiculous conceit of this movie. Isabella takes herself seriously, but no one else needs to. It’s her fun story to tell, and whether or not its true matters not. If only for some laughs and entertainment, she certainly knows how to charm.