Anything Else

Director: Woody Allen

U.S.A.| 2003. Colour. Dolby digital. 108 mins.

The good news about Anything Else is that it’s one of the best, most smoothly executed Woody Allen movies in recent years. The bad news is that Allen seems so alienated from audiences lately, they may still pass it by for something else . . . anything else. The movie deserves better. This acid-tongued and nervy comedy about young love, paranoia and the unlikely bond between a pair of Manhattan jokesmiths—up-and-coming Jerry Falk (Jason Biggs) and late bloomer David Dobel (Allen)—has some of the wit, sass and sexual candour of an Annie Hall. But it covers the same kind of territory with more bite and bile. A Manhattan sex comedy in which Allen has ‘demoted’ himself from romantic lead to supporting eccentric, it’s the best thing he’s done since Sweet and Lowdown, and one of the few really smart romantic comedies of the year.
The movie, which charts Jerry’s romantic fall and comedic rise though his own eyes and those of the irascible Dobel, also has one of the scariest of Allen’s nightmareneurotic movie girlfriends: the incredible Christina Ricci as would-be actress Amanda, a cross between Annie Hall and Attila the Hun. It has marvellous performances by Allen, Danny DeVito (as Jerry’s inept agent) and Stockard Channing (as Amanda’s self-indulgent mom), and a very sympathetic one by Biggs.
Anything Else has something tougher and darker as well. It boasts some of the meanest, most elegant sexual humour and cruellest, funniest topical gags since Billy Wilder’s heyday. Allen makes us laugh, but he also offers a hard, often bleak look at life’s failures and the sensual delights and torments of youth, as seen though the eyes of age.

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