Anything Else

Movie Review by Stephen Doyle

Starring: Woody Allen, Jason Biggs, Stockard Channing, Danny DeVito
Director: Woody Allen

There appears to be a general agreement that Woody Allen’s considerable talents are on the wane. His latest films (THE CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION and HOLLYWOOD ENDING) have been unremarkable and lack some of Allen’s earlier ambition (best witnessed in films such as CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS and HANNAH AND HER SISTERS). It almost seems that Allen’s famous method of making a film each year, as regular as clockwork, has used up all his creative energy.

ANYTHING ELSE is his latest, and it boasts the fresh young talents of Christina Ricci and Jason Biggs. ANYTHING ELSE fails to offer anything new, and Allen’s act is beginning to lose its appeal, yet there remains much to enjoy here, and even a bad Woody Allen film is worth watching. The action concerns a young couple – Amanda (Ricci) and Jerry Falk (Biggs). Jerry is an up and coming gag writer while his girlfriend Amanda is an aspiring model/dancer/singer/actress. Their relationship suffers however, as, this being a Woody Allen film, both Jerry and Amanda (and almost every other character in the movie) suffer from a multitude of ridiculous, and mostly imaginary, neuroses.

Sharing top billing with Ricci and Biggs is Woody Allen himself. He plays Dobel, a vehement Jew-supporter who finds anti-Semitic conspiracies all around him. Dobel, another gag writer and a mentor of Jerry, is one of Allen’s darkest creations. The characters played by Allen in his movies are invariably miserable neurotics who are usually content to passively accept their fate. Dobel, however, fights back against those who upset him. His violence lead to some almost uncomfortable scenes which sit rather uneasily next to the bittersweet romance between Biggs and Ricci which make up the rest of the film.

Possibly the biggest treat here, as with any Woody Allen film, is the sharp and snappy dialogue. Allen remains one of the only filmmakers working today who can revive memories of the sophisticated and quickfire wit of the comedies from Hollywood’s golden age (the best examples probably being Howard Hawks screwball comedy classics BRINGING UP BABY and HIS GIRL FRIDAY).

For the most part however, ANYTHING ELSE is utterly predictable – the affectionately rendered New York landscape, the vintage jazz soundtrack, the neurotic characters, even the opening and closing credits are presented in exactly the same way as they have been in almost every Woody Allen film for the last two decades (small white jazz-age lettering on a black background, accompanied by an inoffensive jazz tune).

For fans only.

4 out of 6 stars

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