2003 - R - 109 Mins.
|Director: Woody Allen
|Producer: Letty Aronson, Benny Medina, Helen Robin, Jack Rollins
|Written By: Woody Allen
|Starring: Jason Biggs, Woody Allen, Christina Ricci, Danny DeVito, Stockard Channing
|Review by: Joe Rickey
It is easy for people to dismiss Woody Allen these days. Many say that he has lost his touch. He is no longer funny. Nobody likes his films anymore. Heck, some even say that nobody sees his films anymore and they would be correct nowadays. Small Time Crooks performed poorly at the box office so did The Curse of the Jade Scorpion and Hollywood Ending. His latest effort titled Anything Else, has seemingly suffered the same fate as the aforementioned films because it failed to generate more than a measly 1.7 million during its opening weekend. It’s really too bad because Anything Else, a film about a neurotic writer (Jason Biggs) and his relationship with an equally neurotic girlfriend (Christina Ricci) is really quite funny. It's pretty close to being a comic masterpiece. Woody Allen plays Biggs’ wise and neurotic (Naturally) mentor.
What makes Anything Else any better than Allen’s last couple of films? Well, here he concentrates more on creating in-depth characters that the audience can grow to like instead of concocting strange setups or gimmicks such as he did in Hollywood Ending and The Curse of the Jade Scorpion. We really care about what happens to Biggs’ character. We cheer when he has success writing; we are interested in his journey to become a big time writer of jokes. We want him to succeed and we sympathize with him because he has the kindness in his heart to overlook his girlfriend’s many faults and try and work out the problems in their relationship. And, most of all, we laugh as he sits in Central Park and has a multitude of discussions with his mentor about such topics as the meaning of life and what his plans for the future entail.
Woody Allen has crafted such a great central character that it would seem that it would be mightily difficult for him to come up with equally interesting secondary characters. Wrong! As the writer’s agent, Danny DeVito is, at his core, a lonely man who has to constantly remind his client that he has stuck with him through the thick and thin because he realizes that he is a failure and that he has only one client. That client is essentially his life. Without him he would keel over.
As Biggs’ girlfriend, Christina Ricci is a little annoying at first because she seems so insecure about everything in her life. She constantly tells herself and others that she is too fat and needs to go on a diet. Then she proceeds to go on a binge-eating spree because she has no self-control. She needs someone in her life that will comfort her and put up with her bipolar behavior. Without that someone she is unable to live. She needs a companion in her life at all times, no matter the cost on her life and the lives of others.
As the mentor named Dobel, Allen plays a man who sees himself as an over the hill school teacher who needs a friend and struggles to show his emotions. He has insecurities, just like everyone else, and it is a challenge for him to get through a single day. When he lets it all hang out in a defining scene where, having been criticized by men younger and much larger than him, he gets up the courage to take a crowbar lay destruction to their car, we laugh and feel good for him because we realize that it took a lot out of him to be so brave.
This film truly is a return to the Woody Allen of old. Filled with characters we care about yet can laugh comfortably at, Anything Else is a near perfect film.