Sydney Film Festival Review: She’s Funny That Way (USA, 2015)

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Isabella Patterson’s arrival into the lives of a group of people in New York City brings about a chain reaction akin to a relationship shit-storm in Peter Bogdanovich’s new film, She’s Funny That Way, now showing as part of this year’s Sydney Film Festival. Originally written 15 years ago, it is now seeing the light of day, and it’s a welcome return to cinema for Bogdanovich, who, in his 12 year absence, directed 3 films for TV, as well as the documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream: Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (this won him a Grammy).

Owen Wilson stars as theatre director Arnold Albertson, who hires loveable escort (no, seriously) Glow (Imogen Poots) for the night, only to “change her life” when he offers her the chance to focus purely on her dream of being an actress. Little does he know she is auditioning for a part in his new play, but with Arnold’s wife (Kathryn Hahn), her former flame Seth (Rhys Ifans), Arnold’s playwright Joshua (Will Forte) and Joshua’s girlfriend Jane (Jennifer Aniston as the best/worst therapist you will ever see) all attached to this play, Glow’s introduction to the acting business has never been more fraught with mayhem.

Are you confused? Don’t worry about it, it’s probably the way Bogdanovich (who also co-wrote the script with Louise Stratten) intended it to be, and with Wes Anderson as one of the executive producers, it never stops being the kind of screwball comedy you would expect from this crowd. You might either be delighted by this film or counting the minutes until it’s over, but the ensemble cast are so playful together that most people should be happy with their time in the cinema. It’s a throwback to classic Hollywood rom-coms – it’s not filled with college-boy humour, slick tricks or wild adventures. It is fast-paced, but that’s thanks to the witty dialogue delivered expertly by the great cast, who clearly loved working together on this project.

Imogen Poots as Glow/Isabella is so adorable, and you forget that she’s British because she pulls off the Brooklynite accent so well. The film is based around Isabella’s interview with a reporter (a cameo by Ileana Douglas), who wants to get to the bottom of Isabella’s rise to fame. Yes, you discover, she is funny that way, and whilst her story to the reporter might hide a few elements of the full picture, you love her anyway.

Owen Wilson as Arnold, Rhys Ifans as Seth and Will Forte as Joshua do great work. Wilson is so likeable that it’s hard to see him stuff this one up. Arnold’s wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) is also great (nice to see Hahn like this!). But the standout supporting character is therapist Jane (Aniston). She is your worst nightmare, and Aniston does this so well, which is a refreshing change from her previous sexy/cutesy roles. You’ll be surprised at how well she pulls this off.

Bogdanovich says, “She’s Funny That Way … is about the accidental nature of things. Things just happen to her (Isabella) through a bunch of strange coincidences”. It’s a bit hit and miss in some places, but somehow it all works out in the end.

Review Score: THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

She’s Funny That Way is screening at this year’s Sydney Film Festival (remaining date and time: Sunday 7th June – Hayden Orpheum Cremorne, 8:35pm) before its limited Theatrical release on August 27th.

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