Bogdanovich's latest is very much a Hollywood shaggy dog story and, so to conform to the Shakespeare in Love rule of comedy, there's even a funny skit involving with a dog. The improbability of it all is part of the film's joy as we see how many plates the superb cast and their on-form director can keep spinning and for how long. She's Funny That Way recalls the same belly laughs that used to come from Woody Allen comedies (before he got his Europass) or, for that matter, the Bogdanovich of the What's Up, Doc? years. What's more, in its wittiness and smarts it's light years from the juvenile gross-out comedy which - with a few noble exceptions - are as funny as an inept colonoscopy. Comedian Richard Lewis and Cybil Shepard are superb as Izzy's constantly fighting parents, Will Forte entertains as Jane's put-upon boyfriend and brief cameos from famous faces give this the feel of one of those mammoth studio productions.
The seasoned comic performers - Aniston, Hahn, Ifyans and Wilson et al - grab their parts with both hands and squeeze there for all their worth. Meanwhile, British actress Poots goes full Brooklyn and more than holds her own, proving herself a dab hand at comedy in the process. This is the second backstage comedy to hit this year's festival, but whereas Alejandro Iñárritu's Birdman (2014) was a revolutionary broadside of satire, innovation and ideas, She's Funny That Way is screwball comedy in a much more traditional sense. It may be stuck in the past, with its hoary clichés about the call girl with the heart of gold and the incurable romantic, but the whole thing fizzes with such joie de vivre that the anachronisms only add to its overwhelming charm.
The 71st Venice Film Festival takes place from 27 August to 6 September 2014. For more coverage, follow this link.