For Ricci, for poorer

Movie: Anything Else

Our Rating: 3.00

At last, a movie that knows what's important to today's young people: searching for Billie Holliday 78s, discussing Dostoevsky and making eyes at each other across the table at Diana Krall concerts. This fall's former "Untitled Woody Allen Project" laughably superimposes the Woodman's obsessions onto a cadre of 20-something Manhattanites who, in real life, would know those names only as references in Woody Allen movies. Gag writer Jerry Falk (Jason Biggs) endures a roller-coaster relationship with his cartoonishly unpredictable live-in, Amanda (Christina Ricci), all while taking questionable advice from paranoid schoolteacher David Dobel (Allen). The giving of a Sartre text as a gift is not the first clue that Jerry, Amanda and their social circle of equally precocious pups inhabit a strange, imagined generation. At least Biggs' scenes with the writer/director hint at intentional self-parody, with Dobel assailing Jerry for his pretentious "prattling" over the meaning of existence. Sound like anybody we know?

It's a latter-day Woody Allen picture, so of course it's haphazardly plotted, comedically inconsistent, polluted by latent misogyny and just plain sloppy. (I'm pretty sure I saw a stationary camera get bumped a few inches out of position -- twice.) But Ricci would be a hoot under any circumstances, and the handful of honest laugh lines do make their mark. Plus, the film affords plenty of chances to wonder over Allen's increasingly bizarre frame of reference. Note that the true climax of this ostensible romance is not a confrontation between Jerry and Amanda, nor even Jerry and Dobel, but between Jerry and his schlub of an agent (Danny DeVito), who clings to his client with the passionate desperation Amanda can hardly muster. Could be a problem there.

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