Although centered around Jason Biggs, this is still, inimitably, a Woody Allen film. Billie Holiday on the soundtrack. Diana Krall right up there on screen (flatteringly shot against a backdrop of molten red). Allusions to Camus, Sartre, Dostoevski, Auden, Fitzgerald, etc. Usages of "polymath," "paucity," "porcine," "homunculus" (in reference here to Danny DeVito where in Manhattan it was Wallace Shawn), etc. Sessions on the psychiatric couch ("You dreamed the Cleveland Indians all got jobs at Toys R Us?"). Textbook jokes ("Am I late?" "Not if we go by Rocky Mountain Time"). Images bathed in a peachy, orangey, lemony light (courtesy of the Iranian-born, French-bred cameraman, Darius Khondji). Apparently knuckling under to the demands of critics, Allen has removed himself temporarily from the amorous fray, to serve instead as an older and wackier advisor to Biggs, both in the latter's romancing of Christina Ricci (Keane-eyed, sleet-voiced) and in their shared vocation of gag writing. Whenever Allen is offscreen (is this really what critics wanted?), it's as if one of his scripts had fallen into the hands of a high-school drama class. Biggs, not a mere substitute but an outright imposter, is at his worst in direct address to the camera. But then, so is Allen as a screenwriter. With Stockard Channing, Jimmy Fallon, Kadee Strickland, Erica Leerhsen. (2003) — Duncan Shepherd
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