Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB
USA/Germany, 2014. Lagniappe Films, Red Granite International, Venture Forth, Three Point Capital, Holly Wiersma Productions. Screenplay by Peter Bogdanovich, Louise Stratten. Cinematography by Yaron Orbach. Produced by George Drakoulias, Logan Levy, Louise Stratten, Holly Wiersma. Music by Edward Shearmur. Production Design by Jane Musky. Costume Design by Peggy A. Schnitzer. Film Editing by Nick Moore, Pax Wassermann.
Peter Bogdanovich returns to directing a feature for the first time since The Cat’s Meow thirteen years earlier, a project he had initially written for John Ritter but abandoned when that great actor died before his time; upon discovery of Owen Wilson, Bogdanovich decided it was worth bringing the project, which he wrote with his then-wife Louise Stratten, back to life. Wilson plays a successful Broadway director who, when he is away from his wife and leading lady Kathryn Hahn, likes to spend his time and money on hotels with call girls. A pleasant evening with Imogen Poots results in his telling her that he’ll give her thirty grand if she gives up the escort life for good, which she does and ends up getting a role in his new play instead. It appears that this is not the first time he has incentivized a working girl to abandon her trade, all of Manhattan is crawling with women whose lives have been changed for the better by Wilson’s generosity, which you can imagine does not go over well when his wife finds out about it from the play’s leading man (Rhys Ifans), who carries a torch for her.
A host of other characters meant to turn this into a world-class bedroom-door-slamming farce also show up, including the play’s writer (Will Forte), his double-talking, angry psychiatrist girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston), Poots’ parents (Richard Lewis, Bogdanovich’s old flame Cybill Shepherd) and the escort service madam (Debi Mazar) taking care of all her clients’ needs. The cast is sterling, beyond these greats you also have small turns by Tovah Feldshuh, a hilarious Lucy Punch, Illeana Douglas in an unnecessary framing device that has Poots and her overwrought New York accent narrating the whole thing, and Austin Pendleton as a former client of hers who can’t get over his feelings about her. Unfortunately, none of it adds up to anything watchable, it could maybe get away with being silly but it’s actually trite, very little of it is funny and the various pieces of the character puzzle don’t fit together in a way that comes off clever or creative. The ultimate goal of all this madness is unclear, either the professional goal of the play or the personal goals of everyone finding happiness in relationships; what should be a hilarious game of near-misses and confusions just ends up being a watered down, unintelligent version of Bogdanovich’s own Noises Off, in which everyone is making plenty of noise but no one knows exactly about what.