Director/co-writer (along with Louise Stratten) Peter Bogdanovich has gathered together a powerhouse cast full of amazing comedic talent. With Owen Wilson, Rhys Ifans, Will Forte, Jennifer Aniston, Kathryn Hahn, Austin Pendleton, Richard Lewis, Cybil Shepherd, and more, all of whom we have seen give stellar comedic performances, this film was ripe for epic laughter. Sadly, this sitcom script is full of underdeveloped characters and contrived circumstances that leave you wondering in what way is she funny?
The “she” we are wondering about is Isabella Patterson the hooker/actress at the center of the antics. Imogen Poots gives a distracting performance as Isabella who sleeps with a john/director (Wilson) and is then reluctantly cast to play a hooker in his Broadway play. Get it? She’s a hooker playing a hooker and the director is one of her clients! I know, right? And, the lead actor in the play (Ifans) knows all about it! Could it get more crazy? Yes! Should if get more funny? Yes!
Anniston is miscast as an overbearing therapist in a role that feels like it was added as an afterthought. Forte manages to chew enough scenery to give the only performance that is amusing as most of the others, such as Ifans and Hahn, are never given the opportunity to display their wares. The talents of many are in such small parts that they are wasted. If you look hard you’ll even see Tatum O’Neal grace the screen for slightly less time than the likes of Jennifer Esposito and Debi Mazar.
Austin Pendleton plays a judge obsessed with the services of Isabella for most of the film. It’s a role that is similar enough to roles he has played in the past that this should have been easy for him to be hysterical. Unfortunately, the script and direction tie him down in a manner that would only be entertaining had Isabella restricted him in a similar fashion.
This 93-minute play on film tries desperately to be a kitschy Woody Allenesque farce but never really gathers enough comedic momentum to go anywhere and simply wastes the talent of the cast and the time of the audience as they sit quietly waiting for the story to garner laughter.
It’s easy to imagine how much fun this cast must have had making this film. It’s much harder to watch the film and wait to have fun.
Recommendation: Every summer there is that “little film that could” that is the surprise hit of the season. Last year it was Chef. This year it’s not She’s Funny That Way. This film is cute in the same way that Three’s Company used to be cute, but not as funny. You’re better off renting Chef.
She’s Funny That Way is currently in theaters and available through VOD.