There are some modest pleasures to be mined from Peter Bogdanovich’s romantic caper She’s Funny That Way, which at least strives for buoyancy.
Owen Wilson plays a big-shot Broadway director who changes the life of Brooklyn call girl Imogen Poots, though his own world comes tumbling down in the process: His diva-like actress wife (Kathryn Hahn) gives him hell. The star of his latest play, a preening sex god played by Rhys Ifans, uses his director’s indiscretion to gain some leverage of his own. And a comically high-strung therapist (Jennifer Aniston) hovers on the fringes, wreaking irreparable psychological damage on everyone in her path.
This is Bogdanovich’s first fiction feature since the 2001 The Cat’s Meow, and he’s clearly trying to recapture some of the gone-bananas energy of earlier pictures like What’s Up, Doc? But before long, the story’s mechanics become wearisome and all too visible. Plus, even though the picture takes place in a chattery, vibrant, highly moviefied version of New York, in 2015 you can’t — or shouldn’t — have even a fantasy vision of New York in which people of color are essentially invisible.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find even one or two dotting the background. At least Bogdanovich enlists lots of actors, in small roles, whose faces are always a pleasure to see, like Austin Pendleton (whose nerdy philanthropist Frederick Larrabee was the best thing about What’s Up, Doc?), the wonderfully woeful Richard Lewis, and Debi Mazar, as a no-nonsense, bejeweled, kaftan-wearing upscale madam. This is a movie where all the madness is in the margins.
She’s Funny That Way
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Opens August 21, AMC Empire 25
Available on demand