She's Funny That Way (4 stars)

She's Funny That Way

Frenetic, star-strewn screwball comedy from Peter Bogdanovich

Veteran director Peter Bogdanovich makes a welcome return to cinemas with She’s Funny That Way, some 14 years after his last narrative feature, The Cat’s Meow. While that film was a semi-true tale of a murder that took place in 1920s Hollywood, this too is set in the world of showbiz – albeit in contemporary New York. Modern-day setting aside, however, it harks back to a bygone era and an almost forgotten sub-genre: the screwball comedy.

Originally called ‘Squirrels to the Nuts’ in a nod to a line from screwball master Ernst Lubitsch's Cluny Brown, it's a breakneck style Bogdanovich has explored before, from What’s Up, Doc? to Noises Off, and given the slick nature of his latest, no-one could accuse him of getting rusty. Co-written with his ex-wife Louise Stratten, the dialogue rattles along at a tremendous pace, with the gags feeling organic and largely sophisticated.

Leading the story is Owen Wilson’s married Broadway director Arnold. The night before the casting of his new play he calls up an escort agency. Arriving at his door is the lovely Izzy (Imogen Poots). Rather than have sex, he wines and dines her, offering her $30,000 to ditch the day job and follow her dream of becoming an actress. Turns out it isn’t the first time Arnold has ever tried to go all 'Pretty Woman' on a prostitute.

But that’s just the beginning of an increasingly frenetic story that involves Arnold’s wife (Kathryn Hahn), a foul-tempered shrink (Jennifer Aniston), a lovelorn judge (Austin Pendleton) and a randy actor (Rhys Ifans), as characters get entangled in a web of mix-ups and misunderstandings. It’s breathtaking and brilliantly cast – particularly Poots, who grounds the film emotionally, and Aniston, who has rarely been funnier. It seems they can still make ’em like they used to.

Selected release from Fri 26 Jun.

She's Funny That Way

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • US
  • 1h 33min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Peter Bogdanovich
  • Cast: Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston
  • UK release: 26 June 2015

Arnold (Wilson) is a married Broadway producer who, after spending the night with lovely escort Izzy (Poots), finds her auditioning for his new play. Frenetic screwball comedy with brilliant work from Poots and Aniston, who has rarely been funnier.