Stuck in the Czech Republic as a result of a travel ban announced after the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, I watch one random film a day until the travel ban is lifted to keep some of my sanity intact.
While much-vilified in the past few years for things outside of cinematic merits, Woody Allen remains one of my all-time favorite directors. However, his filmography is so expansive that I have yet to watch everything he has ever made.
Anything Else is one of those films that slipped under my radar. While it is far from ranking among his best efforts, it has some redeeming qualities. The film revolves around a 21-year-old aspiring writer (Jason Biggs) and his troubled relationship with his actor student Amanda (Cristina Ricci), as well as his friendship with the older Dobel (Allen), who becomes a mentor to him.
While the insecurity of Biggs’ character is charming and, to some extent, vintage Allen, this is far from a realistic portrayal of modern-day people in their early twenties. Biggs’ character, in particular, behaves as if he was at least one decade older. It is also downright insulting to believe him as a struggling writer when he can afford to live in a beautiful apartment in Manhattan.
These are aspects that make it plain late-stage Allen has lost touch with reality. But if you can get past the superficiality of Anything Else, and the subpar acting by Biggs and Ricci, there is a meaningful core to be found in the film’s exploration of the roles of mentors – how the influence the directions of our lives and how, eventually, we outgrow them. Far less rewarding is Allen’s exploration of relationships, though both themes get equal screen time.
ANYTHING ELSE | Director – Woody Allen | Writer – Woody Allen | Starring – Woody Allen, Jason Biggs, Christina Ricci | USA | 2003