‘Anything Else’ is one of the lesser-known outputs from Woody Allen’s seemingly inexhaustible oeuvre, from the early years of the millennium. It stars Jason Biggs, of American Pie fame, and Christina Ricci in the lead roles, apart from Allen himself in his usual neurotically effective character. Allen maybe a bit of a personae non grata now owing to the sexual misconduct allegations against him, but there is no denying he has a particular style and that he is pretty damn good at it.
Jerry Falk (Biggs) may be a young man in his early twenties but he already has the world-weary demeanour of someone double his age. He comes across the older David Dobel (Allen) at an event for comedians and despite their age difference they connect on certain levels. One being the fact that they both are fledgling comedians writing materials for the stand-up scene in New York, hoping to make it big. The other being that they both are Jews and both have their own psychological issues to deal with. In the case of Dobel, it is a paranoia of somebody always being after him and stocking up on requisite firearms for the inevitable event. There are some genuinely funny asides of him trying to make sure Falk is similarly equipped and teaching him the bare knuckles of owning and using a gun. Falk, on the other hand, is driven to neurosis by his complicated love life and the woman he falls for. Amanda (Ricci) is a wildly unpredictable and feisty young woman and she drives the mild-mannered Falk to his wits end and to his shrink, who himself seems to have not much to say to him. Another definitive relationship Falk has is with his agent, played by Danny DeVito. It is testament to his problem with leaving people that he can’t even bring himself to end his contract with his mostly incompetent agent, who doesn’t even have any other clients. Things are made even more harrowing when Amanda’s overbearing and out of work (and a home) mother moves in with them. Oftentimes breaking the fourth wall to speak to the audience, Falk is a character we can’t help identifying with despite his not very sensible choices.
It’s a breezy, feel-good watch without ever making us feel like we are demeaning our intelligence. The conversations between Falk and Dobel are the highlights, with the older man’s constant musings on life playing a good foil to the younger man’s dilemmas. I haven’t actually seen Jason Biggs in anything else (see what I did there?) but the American Pie movies and I’m not very convinced on his emotive capabilities but he is a good fit for this movie with his naturally clueless and naïve look perfectly suited to his character’s insecurities. Ricci also plays a great turn as the woman who drives him nuts while Allen plays his usual character with dependable efficiency. The movie begins and ends with a hilarious montage of dialog with the punchline being the movie’s title. On the whole, I recommend this small but endearing film for anyone looking for a good time at the movies.