Continuing the tradition of using song titles for the names of his films (What’s Up, Doc?, Paper Moon, At Long Last Love, They All Laughed, The Thing Called Love, Runnin’ Down a Dream) 70's “New Hollywood” wunderkind, Peter Bogdanovich – now 75 and still in there pitching – premiered his latest screwball comedy, She’s Funny That Way, out of competition at the 71st Venice Film Festival, which concluded last week.
His first feature film since 2001’s barely-remembered Cat’s Meow, She’s Funny That Way is a return to the kind of contemporary update of the screwball comedy that made 1972's What’s Up, Doc? such a career-defining success for the director, but failed to serve him as well with They All Laughed (1981), 1992's Noises Off (which is actually better than its ignominy would suggest), or the era-specific but nevertheless lead-footed, At Long Last Love (1975).
Starring Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston, Imogen Poots, and Kathryn Hahn, She’s Funny That Way is described as a comedy/romance/musical about a Broadway director who helps launch the career of a prostitute-turned-actress. An event complicated by his being a married man whose wife, friends, associates, and past indiscretions all manage, at the most inopportune moments, to cross paths.
Inspired by the classic comedies of Ernst Lubitsch (Ninotchka, To Be or Not To Be), specifically the 1946 Jennifer Jones/Charles Boyer vehicle, Cluny Brown, from which the film’s original title, Squirrels to the Nuts, was derived (“Some people like to feed nuts to the squirrels. But if it makes you happy to feed squirrels to the nuts, who am I to say ‘nuts to the squirrels’?” ); She’s Funny That Way was written by Bogdanovich and then-wife Louise Stratten (sister of Dorothy Stratten, former Bogdanovich paramour, and tragic subject of the film, Star 80) sometime in the 90s as a vehicle for John Ritter and Cybill Shepherd.
Longtime fans of the director will be amused by the film’s many cameos (Bogdanovich alums Austin Pendleton, Tatum O’Neal and Cybill Shepherd to name a few), but it remains to be seen if contemporary audiences will respond to such worn-out comedy tropes as the lovable philanderer and yet another actress cast in the go-to women’s profession favored by male filmmakers with little actual understanding of women: prostitution.
She’s Funny That Way has yet to land a distribution deal, but it’s hoped the film will land on the roster of releases slated for 2015.
Oh, and as for the song title, She’s Funny That Way is a 1928 male torch song last heard (by me, anyway) crooned by Cecil Callaway about wife Lana Turner in 1946s The Postman Always Rings Twice.
With three successive boxoffice hits right out of the gate, Peter Bogdanovich briefly ruled 70s cinema during what has been called Hollywood's Last Golden Age. Read more about Bogdanovich's three career-defining films below. (Click on the title).