More Woody: The title gag goes as follows “Do you ever wonder about the futility of life, the horrific impending spectre of death and the fact it seems impossible to relate to anyone in this world?”
Cab Driver -”Well you know, it’s like Anything Else”.
What an uncharitable man might say is “It’s like Anything Else Woody Allen has made”. Not strictly true (its not like September) but its certainly not a million miles away from Annie Hall. But an Annie Hall where the lead is more traditionally attractive, the female lead is annoying rather than loveable and there is a grumpy old man around. This is Annie Hall with worse jokes, and a much darker heart. Is it bad? Let’s just say it has its moments – I don’t do objectivity about Woody.
Jason Biggs, unlike John Cusack or Kenneth Branagh – previously placeholding the Allen role, does not do an Allen impression*. He is still a nervous, slightly geeky comedy writer – plus ca change – but he is rather cool. Christina Ricci is his poorly defined girlfriend, with eating issues and control freak tendencies. Other characters drift in and out, but the film is fundamentally about saying no. Biggs cannot dump anyone or anything (his analyst, his girlfriend, his obviously crazy old friend?), and Allen’s paranoid friend wants to help him. And he seems to, somehow, via diversions into Falling Down territory.
As ever the temptation in a Allen film is to read too much personally into the character Allen plays. Here as the aged school teacher/comedy writer he has very mixed opinion of his faith, and increasingly violent paranoid episodes. I think this is Woody acting, this is Woody on the aftermath of 9/11 and on the Patriot Act. Interesting to watch on the side of the main action, especially as the conclusion of the film is a very isolationist one (you cannot trust anyone). Not a great Woody Allen film, but certainly an interesting twist on his Annie Hall comedies.
But Woody really should not have started with those three terrible jokes at the start of the picture.
*Biggs isn’t even really Jewish – though you wouldn’t know from his film roles.