Anything Else Review

Sep 19, 2003 | 12:32pm EDT

Neurotic Jewish writer Jerry Falk (Jason Biggs) is in love with beautiful aspiring actress Amanda (Christina Ricci) who has several troubling flaws: she hasn't had sex with him in six months her mother's just moved into their tiny apartment and she has a pretty nasty eating disorder to boot. It's no wonder Jerry's problems being what they are and this being a Woody Allen film that Jerry's in therapy. Unfortunately it doesn't seem to be working but when Jerry meets fellow writer David Dobel (Allen) he finds in the older man a mentor and confidant. Trouble is the advice-spewing Dobel is even more neurotic (actually paranoid might be the more apt term) and troubled than Jerry.

If you're of the opinion as many people are that Woody Allen plays the same character in all of his films Anything Else isn't likely to dissuade you. In fact the movie may go some way toward proving you right since not only does Allen play the same neurotic Jewish guy he always plays as the director he has Biggs channeling his younger self from the hand gestures to the delivery of the platitudinous dialogue. Ricci provides a vaguely new character for an Allen film but her presence and her delivery are painfully film-school stilted as are Biggs' when he's not sharing the screen with Allen.

All that being said Anything Else nonetheless has some very funny classic Woody Allen moments and the neuroses of his previous films get kicked up a notch here. Dobel's well beyond neurotic; he's a virtual sociopath and he somehow convinces Jerry to buy a gun and build a survival kit. It's incredible to hear from Allen's mouth the words "Shrinks can't help you life is what it is " and the film's climax while pretty hard to swallow marks a turn in Allen's rehashing of essentially the same themes again and again and again. Allen fans shouldn't worry though: Jerry continues the ongoing thematic debate about the relative merits of L.A. versus New York; there are plenty of classic New York street shots; and the soundtrack is the smooth old-school jazz of Billie Holiday's era. Some things never change.

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