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film review

Imogen Poots, left, and Owen Wilson star in a screwball comedy featuring the interconnected personal lives of the cast and crew of a Broadway production.

Screwball comedies are a precarious Jenga built on perfectly calibrated coincidence and execution – the genre thrives on contrivances such as everyone staying on the same floor of the same hotel or getting tables at the same restaurant (even in New York, folks, even in New York).

Peter Bogdanovich's latest attempt at the genre turns on a key phrase from Ernst Lubitsch's last film, from whom She's Funny That Way's intended tone and motto ("squirrels to the nuts") is borrowed.

Stop me if you've heard this one before: Imogen Poots is a virtuous Brooklyn escort-turned-actress. Owen Wilson is a married, big-time movie director who is also a benevolent john. He and his wife (Kathryn Hahn, a screwball dame if ever there was one) are in town to stage a new Broadway play.

Cue the mistaken assumptions, intersecting subplots and crisscrossing relationships. For all its histrionics, the comedy is sluggish, plagued by wildly uneven acting, jokes that don't land and a bizarre plot, let alone odd casting choices (Jennifer Aniston is unwaveringly shrill, and Wilson sounds flustered when delivering anything resembling rapid-fire banter).

If anybody should know how to make a good Lubitsch farce, it's Bogdanovich.

Luckily, he already has: You should just watch his classic What's Up, Doc? instead.