This has got to be one of the most insane movies I've ever seen. Okay, maybe not quite as insane as The Hudsucker Proxy the other night, but close.
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First, let's talk about Woody Allen, the director of this crazy movie. Born December 1, 1935, Woody got a gig marketing one-liners. From that, he went to stand-up comedy, and soon thereafter, to directing films.
But several things remain constant in his films. They usually take place in New York, one of the characters is always a writer, and characters often talk directly to the camera. Woody Allen is the guy who said "I'm not afraid of dying...I just don't want to be there when it happens."
With the exception of two years, 1991 and 1981, Woody Allen has directed a film every single year since Annie Hall in 1977.
Anything Else came along in 2003, to very little hype I guess, since I never saw it posted at any theaters. I just happened to see the cheesy-to-the-point-of-being-fascinating box cover at the rental store one day. But I never bothered to watch it until tonight via one of our dozens of HBO channels. Nya nya.
I stood up and walked away from this movie thinking, "Oh my God, I'm never getting married." The kind of relationships that blossom and wither in Anything Else are devastatingly morbid, and not just the lovey-dovey ones, but practically all of them.
This is awfully convenient for the protagonist Jerry Falk, whose biggest problem is that he can't seem to "dump" anyone. Whether it's his clinging manager who has no other purpose in life, his therapist who wants him to talk about the Cleveland Indians getting jobs at Toys R Us, or his girlfriend Amanda, who's hung up on diet pills, depression pills and sleeping pills, Jerry just can't get rid of them. He himself is the closest thing to a normal character there is, but his normalcy becomes maddening to those around him.
This is where Dobel comes in. He's a 60-year old man who shares Jerry's love of comedy writing. The two meet by chance in Central Park, where they spend most of their time together. Dobel offers some profound advice, while occasionally slipping in an anecdote of his own.
The plot (if you can call it that) is basically that Jerry's with Amanda. First, we learn all about how he met her, how it all came to pass. Then we discover that she has this problem where she can't make love to him because she can't become aroused. Seriously. So this has been going on for six months.
On the side, we have Jerry's writing career, and as a severe detriment to the progress of that, Amanda's mother coming to live at his apartment. And everyone seems to want to call him "Jerry Falk" or even just "Falk". Gee, I can't imagine why!
Dobel comes up with this idea around an hour into things, that he and Jerry should move out to Los Angeles and take up writing gigs down there. Jerry doesn't think he can do it, 'cause it would require him to "dump" all the people he knows in New York. Eventually, he finds it in him to do just that. Then, he finds out that Dobel can't come because he shot a cop, Amanda was having an affair all along, they call it even, he leaves. THE END.
Obviously, Anything Else is more character-driven than plot-driven, but most of the characters are so totally wacky and weird that I didn't know what to think half the time.
Amanda is the normal guy's worst nightmare... bulimic, manic-depressive, attention-deprived, and she actually encourages him to sleep with other women. At one point, Amanda is listing off all this food that she ate, right before Jerry was to take her out to anniversary dinner. It's actually so crazy that if Amanda were to fart in the middle of the conversation, it would not have missed a beat. Actually, I couldn't stand her, even though she looked absolutely stunning with the way her hair spilled across her forehead. Like Michele... ANYWAY! So Christina Ricci has got enough acting chops to make me dislike her (dislike Amanda that is). That's good.
You might say that Jason Biggs gets the same kind of "transformation" that Adam Sandler got in Punch-Drunk Love. One minute, you're splorching into a pie, next you're playing a dead serious man with an annoying stutter and a tendency to converse the way Jeff Gordon drives. He is so clumsy in this role as Jerry Falk, I just kept thinking "That can't be real." How ironic is that?
Stockard Channing plays an impressive, if underdeveloped, side role as Amanda's mother. She plays piano, quite well actually, and bugs Jerry to write up some speeches for her to say in between songs. I thought Jerry was going to end up befriending her. Instead, she ends up coming home with some guy and sniffing cocaine on Jerry's laptop. Who knows what happens to her after that.
Dobel had some of the greatest lines I've ever heard. (For instance, "When people think they know everything, and they start telling you how to live your life, agree with them, then go home and do whatever you want to do") But on the other hand, he also rambled on to excess about Jews and rifles and shooting cops. I can live with the fact that he was probably joking about the latter, and just trying to get Jerry away from his life alone. In fact, there is a theory going around that Dobel is actually Jerry's future self. With his name being so close to "double" and all. There seems to be plenty in the movie to back this up, which makes it a possible contender for repeat viewings. I saved you the first viewing, so thank me! Woody Allen does a superb and often hilarious job playing the guy, all script wonkiness aside.
When I say "script wonkiness", what I mean specifically is that at least 1/3 of the entire movie feels like it was improv'd. Sometimes they just go on and on about the most simple and irrelevant things. At times, it gets to be so much like real fighting, four people talking at once in one scene, that it's literally unpleasant to watch. Just like it would be in real life, though, I guess.
I actually laughed my ass off quite a bit more than I had planned, although there was also a lot of times that hesitancy set in afterward, as if I weren't sure I was "supposed" to laugh there. I also loved the narrative parts where Jason Biggs talked to the camera, sometimes in mid-scene with other characters around. All kinds of laughs became of it.
But as it stands, I haven't seen a five-star movie in over a month now, this is killin' me! And for the first 20 minutes or so, I seriously thought Anything Else had a shot at being that. Objectively speaking, it's a good movie. But it is a little bit high on the insanity by my scales.
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