The veteran Peter Bogdanovich has made a welcome return to the screen with an old fashioned farce. Not that it is so archaic, for, despite being steeped in the traditions of 30s and 40s Hollywood rom-coms, its narrator and loveable protagonist is a New York hooker whose fantasy is to become a movie star.
On what she expects to be just another call-out, Izzy (Imogen Poots), finds herself in the sack with Arnold (Owen Wilson), a Broadway legend who is in the process of directing a comeback play. Though married, Arnold’s kink is that he tends to form an emotional attachment to the girls he hires and doles out large sums of money to them so that they might find another line of gainful employment. The plot twists and turns, leading to mix-ups, confusions and some hilarious set-pieces, including a beauty in which Izzy and Arnold’s wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn) unexpectedly come face to face in Arnold’s bathroom.
In the vein of what used to be known as ‘screwball comedy’, it all feels less like the early era classics than Woody Allen, without the angst and philosophy, and it is beguilingly simple without being facile. Wilson has an innocence about him that has always been easy to take on board, but here he is given a task that would be insurmountable to many, for Arnold, in reality, is quite a reprehensible character. He succeeds in making us like a cad by reprising his self-deluding escapist from Midnight in Paris, while Poots, at one point referring in words and spirit to the serene Audrey Hepburn, is irresistible as the faux naif making her way in the world. But as good as they are, the film’s success rests squarely on the combined acting of the entire cast – as such scenarios generally do.
Among the ensemble, Jennifer Anniston, at last allowed to be her age, is fantastic as the hard as nails psychotherapist and Rhys Ifans’s shaggy dog creepiness is perfect in the part of Delta’s scheming co-star. It’s a hoot.