Director Woody Allen has been in somewhat of a slump in the past few years releasing comedies that had boring plots and jokes that often felt forced. Allen is known as one of the greatest screenwriters of all-time because of his gift of writing dialogue, and in his most recent film “Anything Else,” he does just that.
In “Anything Else,” Allen plays a supporting role, which he seldom does, letting the film revolve around the stars of the movie Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci. Biggs plays Jerry Faulk, a young aspiring comedy writer in New York, who tries to hit it big, but his agent, played by Danny Devito, has a hard time finding work for him. At the same time Faulk deals with his incapability of being the person to actually end a relationship, which he explains through several flashbacks of his previous girlfriends.
At one point in the film where Faulk is in the middle of a serious relationship and is preparing to get engaged, he meets a woman named Amanda Chase, immediately resulting in flirtation and cheating. After Faulk’s girlfriend finds out, she leaves him, but Faulk takes it as a sign that Amanda is the right girl for him.
As the relationship progresses, Faulk begins to notice the negative image Amanda has of herself. Amanda, who is actually a beautifully thin young woman, believes she is overweight and takes several diet pills a day. Because of her sensitivity about her appearance, Amanda decides to stop sleeping with Faulk and urges him to sleep with other women. Realizing that he does not have anywhere else to turn, Faulk meets David Dobel, played by Woody Allen. Dobel at first tries to help Faulk with his problems by encouraging him to get rid of his analyst who Dobels refers to as, “Silent as God.”
Dobel is a comedy writer with a somewhat disturbing past. Dobel spent time in a mental institution earlier in his life, which baffles Faulk who thinks Dobel is a brilliant man. The two quickly become close friends, both offering their own insights into deep topics such as death and society, which they both have a negative outlook on. When Faulk tells Dobel about his intimacy problems with Amanda, all Dobel advises Faulk to buy a rifle and build a survival kit.
Now more clueless than ever, the problems for Faulk only get worse as his agent still cannot find work for him. He suspects that Amanda is seeing someone else. As the film comes to an end we learn the true message; you cannot rely on others to help you with your problems, sometimes the best thing to do is what you feel and not be too preoccupied with the possible consequences.
As with most Allen films, “Anything Else” is only focused on dialogue, which is his usual style. The conversations shared between Dobel and Faulk are always interesting to listen to because we have Faulk at the age of 21 and Dobel who is on the other side of the spectrum at 60. This is interesting to hear because both characters views on life are similar although they both came from different generations. Another thing about Woody Allen films, and this one is no exception, is that they are very unpredictable.
You can never guess what the person is going to say, which makes the viewers become more entangled with the characters and their emotions. The only downside to a strictly dialogue focused film is that the audience can occasionally become bored if the material spreads to different areas or repeats itself. The sense of humor in this film is also pure Allen.
There are no gross-out moments or teenagers making love to pies. The jokes are strictly one liners, which either you agree with and laugh or question why that line was put in there because it was not funny. These one liners allow Allen fans to relate to the style of film that he creates. The location of the movie was another factor that made it a classic Allen film.
As in nearly every Allen film, the setting is New York City. Allen, as a director, loves to show off the beauty of the city and truly captures it on film. Throughout the film Allen takes us to beautiful spots in Central Park, different jazz clubs and old fashioned record stores. The characters in his film are also true New Yorker type people because they are always either intellectuals or paranoid.
This is definitely not the best Woody Allen movie, or even necessarily one of the better ones, but it does redeem Allen from his last three films “Small Time Crooks,” “The Curse of the Jade Scorpion” and “Hollywood Ending” which were big flops. The characters give fine performances although some of the jokes could have been a lot better, but, be that as it may, I’d prefer it over a typical teen comedy any day. If you want to see some of Woody Allen’s classic films, you should check out “Annie Hall,” “Manhattan,” “Sleeper,” or “Bananas.”
*** (Out of four.)