Anything Else
Grade: B+
Year: 2003
Director: Woody Allen
Writer: Woody Allen
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Rated: R
By Scott Spicciati

If you're looking for an enjoyable comedy that emphasizes characters or substance than "Anything Else" is your ticket. Critics have put it down by saying that it isn't the best Woody Allen film, but to attack the creator for having done better things says little about the movie itself, which is very enjoyable.

Jerry Falk (Jason Biggs) is a young comedy writer who resides in a New York City apartment. He is at a point where his career is going nowhere although he isn't ready to admit that he's struggling. He spends most of his free time in the park talking to a strange character named David Dobel (Woody Allen), an elderly New Jersey school teacher who loves his job but has bigger plans for the two of them.

Jerry second-guesses almost everything David says yet he always listens to what he has to say. We as the audience don't always know if David knows what he's talking about, but maybe that character uncertainty is the genius behind the film.

Jerry is the narrator of the film and often looks directly at the camera in-between dialogue exchanges with other characters. As he tells it, he was once happily engaged to Brooke (KaDee Strickland), a carefree woman who just wasn't enough for him. So when he meets Amanda (Christina Ricci) for the first time, a woman who shares almost exactly the same interests, he instantly falls in love with her.

Amanda, who instantly falls for Jerry as well, is an actress who at times can be just as if not more neurotic than David. When Jerry feels that their relationship is moving at the same speed as his writing career, he questions Amanda if she still loves him, Amanda retorts, "Why, just because I pull away when you touch me?"

The lack of sexual excitement in their relationship isn't the biggest conflict in the film, although it comes it close. Amanda's mother, Paula (Stockard Channing), soon moves in to the apartment, which only makes the small space seem smaller, especially when Paula has a full-size piano brought in and plays it daily as part of her own newly found ambition.. This does not make Jerry's job as a comedy writer any easier when he requires peace and quiet to come up with new material.

Paula becomes an essential character because everything she does affects the relationship between Jerry and Amanda. She brings home a new boyfriend whom she just met at an AA meeting and together they use Jerry's laptop as base for their cocaine snorting. When Amanda comes home and witnesses her mom snorting cocaine, she wonders if the drug is exactly what she needs to be happy again.

Jerry sees his life beginning to crumble yet he is unable to do anything about it because he has a hard time ending relationships, both personal and professional. His condition is so bad that he would continue to use the same barber even if the haircuts were always horrible. In a way, Jerry feels obligated to keep people happy.

This turns into a major problem with David suggests that the two of them leave for Los Angeles where they can pursue their writing careers. Jerry initially likes the idea, but that would mean he'd have to leave Harvey (Danny DeVito), his long-time agent who in Jerry's opinion got him to where he is today, despite paying him 25 percent commission. Jerry also feels a special attachment because he is Harvey's only client. The role of Harvey is expertly played by DeVito whose big scene in a restaurant is one of the highlights of the film. Jerry doesn't know how to break the news, as Harvey is expecting him to sign a 7-year renewal contract.

The movie flows at a normal pace and most of the humor is genuinely funny. A scene where a scrawny David Dobel stands-up to bullying thugs who steal his parking space is almost worth the price of admission alone. Besides that, there aren't any extremely hilarious scenes but the film's overall cleverness keeps us entertained.

Woody Allen's "Anything Else" probably won't attract the "American Pie" crowds nor its revenues, and it probably won't make the list of memorable or even great Woody Allen films, but it's an easy read for moviegoers looking for an enjoyable comedy with smart dialogue and interesting characters.

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Copyright 2003. All rights reserved. Contact Editor: Scott Spicciati