Black Comedy: Anything Else (2003)

December 27, 2011

Anything Else (2003) is a black comedy film by Woody Allen, and like other black comedies, it’s a comedy about the tragedy of life and the horrible problems. What the critics said about this film was very negative, but I give it 8/10. Anything Else is not a masterpiece, but it’s a good movie. Some say: “We read a lot of reviews saying that Woody is just repeating himself, but you know what? It doesn’t matter.” In fact, many things just repeat over and over: the love stories, the tragedies, the problems, the life, the death, the relationships, etc. It’s part of the human life. Anything Else, like other Allen’s movies, is about existential issues, human relationships, problems of relationships, the deceit, paranoia and delusions, childlike adults, frustration, commitment, etc. Again neurotic couples doing many neurotic things. But everyone is a little neurotic. This film is about the life and the problems of a young writer, Jerry Falk (Jason Biggs). Jerry’s problems with a new crazy girlfriend, Amanda (Christina Ricci) and her crazy mother, and his relations with a crazy writer, Dobel (Woody Allen), and also a crazy manager/ agent (De Vito) is like a true story. Amanda is a crazy and annoying girlfriend who is complex, difficult, uninterested in s-e-x for months, unfaithful, and her crazy mother is moving in with them. Woody Allen himself plays the older teacher, David Dobel, who gives lots of wise and crazy advice to Jerry. He is “a crazy wise old man”. In an interview about his life, Woody Allen was asked: “if there is one of your films that tells us the most about your philosophy of life?” And he answered: “Well, to date-if it’s just that-I would probably say Anything Else. In terms of just me personally as a kind of wretched little complaining vantz, I think you would see that in Anything Else. There’s a lot of me in there. I’m not saying that Anything Else is my best film, although, I didn’t think it was a bad film at all- I think that one is better than many films of mine that were more successful. I won’t say that it’s never the case, but very often there’s no correlation between the quality of one’s work artistically and its commercial success. Everybody knows that” In fact, Woody Allen and his real life is a combination of Jerry Falk and David Dobel, but who can be perfect? everyone has his own problems and stupidities. Anything Else is a good typical Woody Allen film, with a lot of paranoia and irony. There are many memorable scenes in this film.


Anything Else was awful at the US box office, like most of Woody Allen’s films, grossed only $3 million. Some say: “As has become common with Allens films, it performed better overseas, grossing $10 million, but could not make back its $18 million shooting budget or the $10 million Dreamworks spent marketing the film. However, the reception was not entirely negative; in 2009, it was cited by Quentin Tarantino as one of his favorite 20 films since 1992”. It’s a modern movie with a typical Woody Allen style dialogue. It’s full of great dialogue. Falk: ‘Do you love me?’ Amanda: ‘What a question. Just because I pull away when you touch me?’ … Dobel: ‘The pill makes her crazy? Falk, she is crazy. The Pentagon should use her hormones for chemical warfare‘ … Dobel: ‘I promised students of my class I’m gonna take them to the Caravaggio exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum. You know, I try to give them a little culture now and then so they don’t beat each other to death with bicycle chains all the time‘. Woody Allen uses his old material in this movie, like a paranoid Jew. His jokes about the stupid Jews make many fanatic Jews angry, but many wise Jews love him and his jokes. Woody Allen’s movies deal with everyday urban life of the middle class intellectuals, artists, writers, etc. with all their love, s-e-x, professional, personal, and philosophical problems. Anything Else is one of these films, and it shows us part of the unseen facts about the daily life in the US and New York. It’s interesting to know that Anything Else and other Allen’s movies can show you part of our life in Iran, too. You can see almost all characters of Anything Else and other Allen’s movies in today’s Iran. In fact, these characters are universal characters and their problems are universal problems. Amanda’s mother is a childlike mother that almost all Iranians have someone like her among their relatives. This childlike crazy mother is really a global character that you can find her everywhere. Jerry’s agent, Harvey, is an old man that lives with his mother and charges Jerry 25 percent, while the standard is 10%, but Jerry is his only client. Harvey is an uneducated businessman, an ex-salesman in the clothing industry, that has become agent of a young writer. Americans call him ‘loser’, but he is just ‘a wrong man in a wrong place’. It’s a familiar character in all around the world.


Amanda seems like an annoying girlfriend who cheats on her boyfriend, but she clearly talks about her problem with commitment and sends enough signal to Jerry, who is naive and blind. When Dobel says: “Amanda is cheating on you”. Jerry asks: “How do you know? You just see her for minutes” Dobel: “I see it in her eyes”. He advises Jerry to spy on her. When Jerry finds the truth, he asks Amanda: “I saw three of you. You, your acting teacher, and your diaphragm. Where could be your diaphragm? There is no such thing as a diaphragm repair shop.’ Amanda: ‘Okay. Okay, I slept with Ron Keller (acting teacher). But I didn’t do it because I care about him‘. Falk: No? What then? To punish him?‘ Amanda: ‘No, I did it because I had to find out if there was something wrong with me. Because I can’t sleep with you, the person that I love. I had to know if I was some kind of freak, or frigid. I had to know if I could even get aroused anymore and have an orgasm’. Falk: ‘And can you?’ Amanda: ‘Yeah. It’s good news. I can‘. Amanda: “Don’t be mad at Ron. He was just trying to help” Jerry: ‘Remind me, please, to put him on my Christmas list, if I could figure out how to make a letter bomb‘. Jerry: ‘OK. Where’s the rifle? I need the rifle. I’m going to blow my brains out!’ Amanda: ‘Oh, don’t be so middle class! I did it as much for you as for me‘ Girls like Amanda, and Boys like Jerry, do exist everywhere, in the US, Iran, and everywhere. What Amanda says about herself in the flash back, is a black joke about the ethical values and the hypocrisy in today’s world. Jerry’s girlfriend: “Where did you go to school?” Amanda :” Ethical culture . Fieldstone. But I dropped out.” Amanda’s boyfriend: “One of the professors fall in love with her” Amanda: “It was terrible. He was married. It was way too much pressure for all of us. His poor wife.” Amanda’s character and the jokes that Woody Allen’s has written about her in the script is like the Iranian jokes (the Rashti jokes). When Amanda came back from a 2-weeks trip to Italy with a man, she confesses: “Yah, I did it. But I thought of you. You were really the person I was really making love to in Naples and Florence, and Venice, and on the airplane 40,000 feet in the air, and … ” Jerry: “OK. Enough.” Amanda: “And at the Vatican”. There are many universal black jokes in this film. Woody Allen’s jokes about the stupid drug users and snorting cocaine, that is as funny as the similar jokes in “Hannah and Her Sisters”, is universal, and the scenes about the thugs in New York, remind you of a global problem, and this fact that ultra-stupid people are everywhere.


Anything Else is a black comedy. It forces you to think about many things, including the tragedy of life. It’s not a comedy and happy movie that you can watch it when you are depressed or unhappy. But it’s a movie about global issues. Jerry and Dobel go to the Central Park in New York and talk about the life and their problems. It’s like what many Iranians and other people in all around the world do. Dobel’s dialogue and theories are great. Dobel: ‘Last night I was home alone in my apartment and I conjured up a threesome with me, Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren, and it was very very erotic. As a matter of fact if I’m not mistaken, it was the first time those two great actresses ever appeared in anything together“. Dobel: “I was married when I was young. I should have known something was wrong on the wedding night, when her family danced around my table chanting: ‘We will make him one of us“. Jerry’ shrink is a typical idiot you can find him everywhere. Dobel says: “Since the beginning of time people have been, you know, frightened and, and unhappy, and they’re scared of death, and they’re scared of getting old, and there’s always been priests around, and shamans, and now shrinks, to tell ’em, “Look, I know you’re frightened, but I can help you. Of course, it is going to cost you a few bucks…” But they can’t help you, because life is what it is”. Woody Allen’s jokes with the doctors are funny, specially about the relation between Amanda and the unknown doctor. Jerry: “The doctor had better s-e-x examining her than I’ve had in six months’. Dobel’s medical theories is as funny as his stupid theories about the end of time and the end of world and the end of civilization. Dobel: “I have a theory that too much rejections (by partner) causes cancer.” Anything Else is a black comedy that can show you many things and many issues are universal. In fact, Anything Else is a movie that can show you how similar are the human life in all around the world. When you make a movie, or write a book or article, or create any arts work or intellectual work about the existential issues, the human life, or the human problems, you are a global creator and your work is a universal artifact. Anything Else is one of these universal artifacts.