Film Reviews

ANYTHING ELSE

By • Sep 19th, 2003 •

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DreamWorks Pictures / 108 minutes / No MPAA rating

I saw this movie in 1977. It starred Woody Allen and Diane Keaton. It was ANNIE HALL. By then Allen was famous. Today, he’s still famous, infamous in fact, and incredibly wealthy. For the past two decades he has been making movies nobody wants to see. He’s too rich, notorious, and old to play the downtrodden schlemiel. He got the girl. Regardless of decades of daily therapy, Allen is still bitter about some woman he was involved with who wouldn’t sleep with him when he was starting out in the comedy business. She was unattainable and made his life miserable. She was inconsiderate. He pleaded for her attention. She made a fool out of him. He’s still trying to get even with her.

She wanted to sing. She was insecure about herself. He thought people were making “Jew-hating” remarks towards him. They walked in Central Park. She moved in with him. He had a friend who was blunt with him about his relationship. There was a scene involving cocaine. There was singing. He wanted sex. She didn’t.

ANYTHING ELSE is the exact same movie done scene for scene except this time Allen shows his bitterness and rage at women. People loved the character of Annie Hall. I must now assume that was not Allen’s intention. In ANYTHING ELSE all Allen’s female characters are monsters. Thankfully, this time Allen does not play himself. He gets Jason Biggs as his stand-in to recite his worn dialogue on death, despair, and Sartre. Today, if you do that, you are called “creepy” and wouldn’t have a live-in girlfriend. Just in case you are not smart enough to realize it is really Woody “It’s all about Me” Allen that Biggs is playing, the director places himself right alongside his stand-in. Allen is playing the role formerly played in “Annie Hall” by Tony Roberts.

Haven’t we been through all this stuff before? Just like every 25 year old, Jerry Falk (Biggs) reads and quotes Jean-Paul Sartre and Fyodor Dostoevsky. He ponders the emptiness of life. He mopes around. He sees an analyst. His only friend is a 67 year old named David Dobel (Woody Allen) who is nasty and mean. He’s a failed comedy writer. Dobel continues the tired platitudes of Woody Allen we once found charming. That was way back in 1977. It was fresh back then. It was novel.

Allen, as Dobel not Alvin Singer, still thinks people are making “Jew” remarks towards him.

This time Allen does not allow us to accidentally fall in love with his heroine. Amanda (Christina Ricci) is cute, but that’s about all. She is inconsiderate, unattainable, will not have sex with Falk, and cheats on him.

Amanda has her harridan of a mother, Laura (Stockard Channing), move in with them. Laura wants to be a nightclub singer. She sings a song. Laura picks up a young guy and they invite Amanda and Falk to take cocaine. Falk is shocked! New Yorker Falk has never experienced cocaine. He’s in the entertainment business.

The music is standard Woody Allen fare. Why didn’t Biggs tell Woody what youngsters are listening to? If I can watch VH-1’s Top 20 Countdown weekly to stay on top of things, why can’t Woody?

I will say that the director of photography, Darius Khondji, infuses ANYTHING ELSE with a warmth and intimacy that has been missing from previous Allen films. How in the world did Khondji get away with it? Also, the camera angle Allen invented – having his lead actors stand with their backs to the camera – is not on view.

Dreamworks has all but banished Allen’s name from the film. Great approach! Why not excuse Allen next time from appearing on film? Isn’t writing and directing enough? I hope this advertising strategy helps the opening weekend box office.* In closing I’d like to express my gratitude to Allen for not tongue kissing anyone forty years younger than himself. Psychotherapy may be finally paying off!

* editor’s note: Sadly, it didn’t. ANYTHING ELSE didn’t even finish in the top ten it’s first week out.


Credits:
Screenwriter-director: Woody Allen
Producer: Letty Aronson
Executive producers: Jack Rollins, Charles H. Joffe
Director of photography: Darius Khondji
Production designer: Santo Loquasto
Co-producer: Helen Robin
Costume designer: Laura Jean Shannon
Editor: Alisa Lepselter

Cast:
Jerry Falk: Jason Biggs
Amanda: Christina Ricci
David Dobel: Woody Allen
Laura: Stockard Channing
Harvey: Danny DeVito

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