Anything Else

One of the most annoying things about recent Woody Allen movies is his insistence on casting himself in the lead role, and inevitably falling in love with a gorgeous young co-star. While the 68 year-ld director has gotten older, his leading women have not aged a day. They may have gotten younger. For Allen (Hollywood Ending, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion) to take a co-starring role in Anything Else is a nice move on his part, it takes away much of the distraction at having to watch Allen romance women less than half his age. In terms of film quality, Allen is coasting along at mediocre. He hasn't really done anything exceptional recently, and it feels like he is just recycling formulas that worked so well for him years ago. Anything Else is almost like a taunt. It's an unfortunate name, along the same line as What's the Worst That Could Happen?

Maybe he was smart to not star. This distinction goes to Jason Biggs (American Wedding, American Pie 2), who plays Jerry Falk, who is essentially the same alter ego of Allen that appears in every movie. Now, instead of being old and neurotic, he is young and neurotic. He is a budding novelist, but currently stuck in a bad contract with his manager Harvey (Danny Devito, Death to Smoochy, Heist) writing jokes for comedians. His life changes when he meets Amanda (Christina Ricci, Pumpkin, All Over the Guy), an insane woman. Okay, not really, but that's how she comes across. Amanda is flighty, clingy, and moody, every boyfriend's worst nightmare. Oh, she's normal at first, but soon becomes a paranoid mess, slowly collapsing to pieces in front of Jerry's face. Ricci's performance is probably the most unpleasant part of Anything Else. Allen wants to portray this as comedic, mainly to show the pain that Jerry is suffering through. This does not happen. As written, the Amanda character is just crazy, and Jerry is STUPID to put up with her as much as he does.

Jerry's one bit of sanity (well, relative sanity) is his friend Dobel, another writer who just seems to do nothing except expense advice. This is the type of person what Allen used to play, and the type of character sorely missed in his movies. He has long comedic monologues that touch upon just about everything, and Allen writes Dobel as slightly off-kilter. Some of what he says is borderline offensive, so nobody knows what exactly to expect. An odd feeling for an Allen film, but a welcome one. It is just as odd watching Dobel interact with Jerry, since this is essentially an older Allen talking to a younger Allen. However, Biggs is no Allen. For one, the addition of glasses does not make him look more refined or intelligent.

There are some laughs, but not many. The ones that succeed are not that funny, they are more slight chuckles. Jerry's life becomes more complicated when Amanda's mother (Stockard Channing, Le Divorce, Life or Something Like It) moves in with them. Of course, Amanda's mother is also crazy, and it should be noted that Allen's treatment of his women characters, both as they are written and what he says about them, is not that great. It seems backward. Also, the New York that Jerry and Amanda live in is not of the real world. It's less idyllic than the one in Autumn in New York, but much cleaner, whiter, and more old-fashioned than it really is.

Haro Rates It: Not That Good.
1 hour, 48 minutes, Rated R for a scene of drug use and some sexual references.

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