The director of such classics as The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon is finally making a return after 14 years of absence from features, but after watching the trailer for She’s Funny That Way, I wonder if it’s anything to celebrate. Peter Bogdanovich has been keeping plenty busy over the past decade and a half, doing a little more acting, some hosting duties on TCM, maintaining a blog at Indiewire and helming some TV movies, namely biopics about Natalie Wood and Pete Rose, and a documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. But his last true picture show, as far as a theatrical narrative release, was the 2001 historically inspired jazz-age farce The Cat’s Meow.
For his comeback, Bogdanovich has written another wild comedy, this time with ex-wife Louise Stratten, and he’s corralled a very impressive cast, as someone of his background can easily do. Imogen Poots stars as a high-class prostitute-turned-Broadway star who gets a part in a play directed by a former client (Owen Wilson), whose wife (Katherine Hahn) is also in the cast, and she also attracts the affections of the playwright (Will Forte), whose girlfriend is the former escort’s therapist (Jennifer Aniston). There’s also room for Rhys Ifans, Richard Lewis, Michael Shannon, Lucy Punch, Cybill Shepherd, Illeana Douglas, Austin Pendleton, Debi Mazar and Jennifer Esposito plus cameos from Quentin Tarantino, Tatum O’Neal, Graydon Carter, Colleen Camp and Jake Hoffman, I’m assuming as themselves.
While in some ways this seems like the sort of classic screwball shenanigans Bogdanovich has long enjoyed doing, in tribute to the masterpieces of yore, it also looks like one of Woody Allen’s recent mediocre offerings, or at best something by the late Paul Mazursky only without the Jewish flavor. The cast is too good to pass up, as is perhaps the support and interest from Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach, but also Poots’s accent here is a real turn-off. Will it be easy to dismiss through the whole movie (which she apparently narrates in voiceover) if I can’t overlook it in these two minutes? Will it turn out to work enough through the feminist implications of all the men being punched in the face by women in the trailer? Were the positive Answers to these questions and more when the movie opens on May 1st.