A review of “Anything Else” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: R for sexuality and drug use

Run Time: 1 hour, 48 minutes

 

 

Woody Allen’s heir apparent is undoubtedly Jason Biggs, who quirks and whines his way through this madcap romantic comedy with eccentric finesse.

Biggs is Jerry Falk, an aspiring comedy writer living on the fringe in New York City.  A chance meeting on a double-date spells love at first sight with the cherubic Amanda (Christina Ricci), a struggling actress and singer.  Jerry is so blinded by Amanda’s fresh spontaneity and fetching joie-de-vivre that he neglects to notice to obvious:  Amanda is a neurotic mess.

Pouring his heart out to his support network doesn’t seem to help. Jerry’s analyst sits in stony-silent judgment, while gadabout pal David Dobel (Allen) makes a compelling case against Amanda’s very presence in Jerry’s life (“The Pentagon should be using her hormones for chemical warfare”).

Adding insult to injury is Jerry’s beseeching pit-bull of an agent (Danny DeVito), for whom Jerry is a client roster of One, and Amanda’s mom Paula (Stockard Channing), a boozy chanteuse who moves in to the couple’s spare bedroom with no definite date of departure.

Can two neurotics find real happiness? Can altruism conquer nihilistic pessimism? Is there a quick fix for love at first sight?

Though hardly vintage Allen, “Anything” hits its marks far more often than it misses.  The script is punctuated with enough genuine zingers (“Look at her body language – all verbs”) and Woody-esque wisdom (“Work gives the illusion of meaning; sex gives the illusion of continuity”) to placate Allen’s idiosyncratic fans, while Biggs’ and Ricci’s presence clearly calls out to the “American Pie” set.  

Biggs wears Allen’s trademark paranoia like a comfortable pair of sneakers, engaging his audience by frequently addressing his dysfunctionally comic dialogue directly to the camera. Ricci perfectly embodies the quintessential Allen Girl – beautiful and seductive, with a noggin full of loose screws.  New York City appears winsome and proud, standing by her man in the twilight of his career.