Anything Else Review
By Shawn McKenzie 09/20/2003
Woody Allen is an acquired taste. I tend to prefer the movies in which he is the main star, despite his tendency to cast an unrealistically young female lead. In the movies where he is a supporting character or not in it at all, the lead tends to do the “Woody,” which is that they try to emulate him. I was glad to see that the lead in Anything Else did not do that.
Jerry Falk (Jason Biggs) is a comedy writer who can’t seem to say no to anybody. Whether it is to his whacked-out live-in girlfriend Amanda (Christina Ricci), his ineffective manager Harvey (Danny DeVito), or his non-helpful therapist (William Hill), he just can’t seem to turn anyone down or disappoint anybody. Jerry’s new friend, fellow comedy writer David Dobel (Allen) is a paranoid schoolteacher who tries to give Jerry advice on how to handle his life. Jerry and Amanda’s relationship started hot and heavy, but now she won’t sleep with him, and she doesn’t know why. It might be that there is no danger anymore. When they met, Jerry was dating Brooke (KaDee Strickland) and Amanda was dating Bob (Jimmy Fallon.) They soon began an affair with each other, and dumped their exes (which was hard for Jerry.) David thinks Amanda is cheating on Jerry. He thinks Jerry should find out if she is, and that he should dump Harvey and manage himself (he can’t bring himself to do it because he is Harvey’s only client.) David also thinks Jerry needs a survival kit and gun, which doesn’t suit Amanda or her alcoholic and washed up singer mom, Paula (Stockard Channing), who is living with them, well. With David’s help, Jerry starts to figure out what to do with his life involving his relationships and his career, including finally finishing his novel.
When you first see the movie, you might disagree with me about the lead doing the “Woody.” What you have to realize is that the lead is still reading Woody’s words, so it may sound like he is doing the “Woody.” Biggs managed to get through the movie without doing an imitation of the man. Sean Penn was doing it in Sweet and Lowdown, Kenneth Branagh was doing it in Celebrity, and John Cusack was doing it in Bullets Over Broadway, but I don’t believe Biggs was doing it here.
Despite my appreciation of Bigg’s performance, it was just a so-so Woody flick. In some ways it might bring back memories of Annie Hall (there’s even a scene involving cocaine), but it didn’t exactly crack me up the way many of his past films have. Ricci was the typical Woody girl, but since Biggs is young himself, it didn’t have that creepy vibe, which was good.
I find it odd that I generally like Woody’s movies. I am not a sophisticate, and I hate most of the filmmakers that he claims to be his influences (I can’t stand Ingmar Bergman.) I just tend to think that they are funny, though I wish he would do more movies like 2000’s Small Time Crooks. I think a character in his 1980 movie Stardust Memories said it best: “I liked your earlier, funnier movies better.” Fortunately, Anything Else wasn’t his worst film, and that was due to some great performances by Biggs and Ricci. Let’s get back to the formula that works though…Woody in the lead, a woman one third his age as his love interest (which is creepy, but familiar), and lots of hilarity.
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