Allen’s “Anything Else” actually makes sense

Courtesy of KRT

By Chris Hewitt Knight Ridder Newspapers (KRT)

At this point, it’s churlish to complain about the things that make Woody Allen Woody Allen.

So, take it as a given that his new “Anything Else” is misogynistic, that all the characters talk the same, that it thinks New York is the world’s only interesting city, that everyone wears Ralph Lauren duds that are as timelessly out of style today as they were 30 years ago and that the lead character is self-absorbed.

If you can hang with all of that- and it’s a big if – “Anything Else” is Allen’s most interesting movie since “Sweet and Lowdown.”

Watching “Anything Else,” it occurred to me that Allen, who made his reputation for hilarious, incisive writing, has become a better director than writer. “Anything Else,” shot by the great cinematographer Darius Khondji, is fluid and inventive. If you didn’t know it was an Allen movie, you’d think it was the work of a young director who’s having a gas using split screens and exploring what a freeze-frame might mean (Allen does both here, and both work effortlessly).

The story? There’s a guy (Jason Biggs) who is victimized by the women in his life (Christina Ricci and Stockard Channing in thanklessly one-note roles). Happily, he is also under the spell of a mild-mannered acquaintance (Allen) who quickly reveals currents of loneliness, hostility and pain. Allen the actor seems looser than he has in years _ much of what he says sounds improvised _ and the casualness of his performance makes this guy seem more real and, maybe, more dangerous.

Yeah, Allen the writer has given other characters lines that make no sense in their mouths (a 20-year-old woman here says, “What I love about Bogart is he’s so intensely urban,” a line nobody but Allen himself-or maybe the annoying guy on “Inside the Actors Studio”-would say. But the things that he himself says and does make more sense in “Anything Else” than they have in years.