“Not Bad But Weak”: Anything Else – The Woody Allen Pages Review


Anything Else is a film that should work. It’s modern day New York, it’s modern day love with interesting and flawed characters. There is plenty of pretty great one liners, and the performances go from pretty great to ok. But it doesn’t work – and it’s because everything in show here has been done better. It was time for a change.

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Jason Biggs in ‘Anything Else’

Woody Allen stars as David Dobel, a mentor to the true star, Jason Biggs who plays Jerry Falk, a young writer. His life is a bunch of Allen film tropes – in love with a difficult woman, he’s in analysis, he struggles with his creativity and the basic day to day of getting through modern life.

Christina Ricci in Anything Else
Christina Ricci in Anything Else

That woman in his life is Amanda Chase, brought to startling life by Christina Ricci. Like Helen Hunt or Tracey Ullman, she is a great character (even at his lowest, Allen does a great job with women) but so unsympathetic. Biggs also does a great job. He’s an Allen surrogate but doesn’t do an Allen impersonation. He’s a fine actor – what happened to him?

Woody Allen and Jason Biggs in 'Anything Else'
Woody Allen and Jason Biggs in ‘Anything Else’

But what makes this a weaker film for Allen is the script. It rolls along nicely with plenty of well done scenes – but it goes nowhere we haven’t been before. We assume a lot was left on the cutting room floor. There isn’t a lot of meat here. The supporting cast – Danny DeVito, Jimmy Fallon – have little to do.

Dobel goes crazy in 'Anything Else'
Dobel goes crazy in ‘Anything Else’

There are nice bits. The last half hour, when we see Dobel go crazy in a parked car, is the first time something truly interesting happens. The entire subplot of the insane mentor works, and gives us the bittersweet ending.

Manhattan, in 'Anything Else'
Manhattan, in ‘Anything Else’

The scenes of modern Manhattan are also really pretty. No one does this like Allen, and after a few films set in the past or interiors, just seeing characters walk in pretty streets and parks is good. It’s also filmed in widescreen, the first time since Manhattan.

This film is not bad – just weak. The overall message of the film, and gives it it’s title, doesn’t work. We meander, waiting for a break up that takes too long to come along. And performances aside, spending too much time with these people – they are kind of horrible people.

Anything Else
Anything Else

This is watered down Annie Hall. A sprawling relationship about young New Yorkers that just doesn’t have the ideas to pull it off. And if even pretty New York can’t help you, it’s time to get out and try seomthing else. Anything else.

Complete cast: Jason Biggs, Christina Ricci, Stockard Channing, Danny DeVito, Jimmy Fallon, KaDee Strickland, Erica Leerhsen, Adrian Grenier, David Conrad

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      1. I believe Anything Else was the first feature Woody shot in New York post 9/11. After appearing at the Oscars to pay tribute to the great city in early 2002 and making his delightful short Sounds from the Town I Love, Woody set out to make yet another romantic comedy (probably an old idea he dusted off much like “Whatever Works” which is similar in title as well as being equally cynical) about an inept man who has married young, writes comedy for bad comedians and is in analysis. One can only speculate how much of this story is Woody reflecting on his own past and possibly in his older and wiser age trying to impart some good advice to his younger self.

        What is most striking about this movie is that it is so angry. From the survival kit, to owning a rifle to being wary of the Gestapo, to bashing in someone’s car windows in revolt and finally shooting a state trooper, Woody seems to be expressing his rage over the terrorism that shook his beloved New York and feels that self defense is paramount. The film is all over the place and lacks the cohesion of his finer films-it almost seems that the movie was made by someone in shock (perhaps suffering from trauma).

        One of the first films to be shot on location in New York after the attacks was Spike Lee’s 25th Hour-in this case Spike rose to the occasion and made the best film he had directed in years (possibly spurred on by the kinetic energy of the relief efforts and the human capacity for perseverance which was being displayed all over the city).

        While Woody may have faltered in telling a good romantic comedy, I think he may have unwittingly done something far greater with Anything Else; he gave us a glimpse of his deep love (perhaps even deeper than the romanticism of “Manhattan”) for the city of New York.

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