Little White Lies Magazine by Sophie Monks Kaufman

She's Funny That Way

Arnold (Owen Wilson) is a New York director who calls himself Derek when fraternising with call girls. Glow (Imogen Poots) is a call girl only she doesn’t see herself like that – she is a ‘muse’ and, anyway, she’s talking to a journalist four years thence with her frizzy hair straightened and the air of a someone talking about how she stopped being a no one.Back to the past and Glow and Derek are lying in bed, all good-natured in that easy way you can imagine Owen Wilson being with Imogen Poots, when he discovers that she’d like to be an actress. He gives her $30,000 to quit her job and pursue her dream. She does so immediately and her first audition – get this! – ends up playing a call girl in Arnold’s play which also stars his wife, Delta (Kathryn Hahn) and her old flame, Seth (Rhys Ifans).

There’s more! Glow – real-name, Isabella – is seeing an angry therapist, Jane (Jennifer Aniston) who is dating the writer on Arnold’s play, Joshua (Will Forte) who dumps her for Isabella. Jane is professionally treating a patient who is obsessed with Isabella from when she was the call-girl. Judge Pendergast (Austin Pendleton) has hired a PI to follow her who happens to be Joshua’s dad. Add dogs. Add more call girls. Add a series of scenes of people hiding in bathrooms. It’s coincidence city. It’s screwball tomfoolery a-go-go.

Peter Bogdanovich’s tribute to ’30s-style entertainment keeps the beat of the genre and the cast is one long list of best-case scenario coups all the way, from the top to cameos from Michael Shannon (as a security guard <3), Quentin Tarantino and Joanna Lumley. Then there’s Imogen Poots. There is a stretch in which Arnold is trying to convince Delta that Isabella is wrong for the role. He slags off her face – says she’s ordinary. This is the biggest joke in the whole production. Imogen Poots’ face is distinctive and great. It’s so beautifully full that for however long the camera stays on her, it always leaves too soon.

The British actress is adopting a chewy Bronx accept and an unsteady stomping gait to play a sweet young thing who only wants to get along. The women do rather steal the show. Kathryn Hahn, in a rare leading role, injects charisma and pizzazz into her cuckolded wife while Jennifer Aniston manages to undercut the unrelenting bitchiness of her part simply by being comic actress, Jennifer Aniston.

The problem is that even though the absurd jigsaw comes together, the picture it produces is arbitrary, and the finale lacks energy. This isn’t Bogdanovich yearning to tell a particular story. This is Bogdanovich re-energising a beloved old genre and pulling in some great and charming connections to do so. This is an in-joke of a film that relies upon formulas that were old before any of its stars were born. It’s entertaining enough and a fine showcase for all of its actors (it’s nice to be reminded of Rhys Ifans’ comic timing). Just don’t come looking for anything new.


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