Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Anything Else


Woody Allen and Jason Biggs are joke writers who form a friendship. Jason is twenty-one and Woody is sixty. (Woody shaved a few points here. Like, eight!) Woody has a lot of what he calls “seminal jokes,” like he did in Annie Hall. One of them concerns a man telling his woes to a taxi driver, wailing about how life is meaningless, unfair, without purpose, and just generally nasty. “Right,” the hack driver says. “Just like anything else.” I’m not sure I get that one, but it’s where the title comes from.

Jason is one of those people who can’t leave anyone, even when it’s way past time to do so. His agent (Danny DeVito) has only one client, so he is about as dependent on Jason as a deer tick is on a deer. He also takes twenty-five percent. His girlfriend (Christina Ricci) is unfaithful to him, over and over again, and always has some screwball way of making it seem like she’s screwing around as a favor to him. She brings nothing to the relationship, financially, and yet feels it’s perfectly all right to bring her narcissistic, awful mother to live with them in their too-small apartment, along with her upright piano for her never-gonna-happen music career. She also pays no rent but knows how to guilt-trip a poor schmo like Jason.

Woody is the only voice of sanity in his life … and he’s fucking nuts. He’s into guns and survivalism and paranoia about Nazis finishing the job they started on the Jews. But at least he sees Jason’s situation clearly, and finally manages to encourage the kid to grow a pair and move with him to California where they will write for TV shows.

It’s a real departure for Woody. He’s not the stammering wimp this time. He takes names, and he gets even. When a pair of muscle-bound apes take the parking spot he has been waiting five minutes for, he drives away rather than get pounded to a pulp, but he comes back and uses a tire iron on their car. I like that! It’s strange to watch, though. We have become so used to Woody as the quailing wimp, and now it’s Jason who is taking that role, with Woody as the best friend. It felt like a case of multiple personalities there on the screen. And that was good. If Woody will only abandon the standard part he takes in so many of his movies, do more roles like Crimes and Misdemeanors and Hannah and Her Sisters, a person we can recognize, neurotic but reasonably so, rather than a caricature, his movies would be the better for it.