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This 2003 movie, written and directed by Woody Allen, is about Jerry Falk (Jason Biggs), an aspiring writer whose fatal flaw is that he can't say "no" to others, even when it's in his own best interest. He falls madly in love with Amanda (Christina Ricci), the girlfriend of his friend, dumping his own perfectly nice live-in partner to clear the way for Amanda to move in. Amanda is a diet pill-popping anorexic; her other unsavoury habits include binge eating, cigarette smoking, infidelity, and being unable to get sexual with Jason once the first few "honeymoon" months are over - though he never gives up hope. Another black mark is her mother (Stockard Channing), an egocentric wannabe singer who moves in while between men.

While he works on his first novel, Jason makes a living as a comedy writer, represented by Harvey (Danny DeVito), an agent with a client base of one and an unfortunate predilection for spinning extended metaphors based on the garment industry. At an interview Jason meets David Dobel (Allen), an intellectual schoolteacher with a great vocabulary who's trying to make it as a comedy writer. The two strike up an odd sort of friendship, meeting in Central Park as Dobel attempts to impart the accumulated wisdom of his years to the callow youth.

One of the best things for me about this movie was Allen's character. It's easy to imagine, because he generally looks the same and has the same mannerisms, that Allen always plays the same character: not so here. His familiar neurotic baggage is carried by Biggs, leaving Allen free to portray a deranged paranoid stockpiling survivalist gear and bristling at perceived anti-Semitic comments: not Allen's usual schtick. Biggs is the one who attends endless psychoanalysis. Also thankfully deferred to Biggs is the attention of women - because the idea of a pretty young woman like Amanda, no matter how screwed up she is, being attracted to Allen is just too much to bear.

The critics were pretty evenly split on this movie, many even calling it to a lesser Annie Hall, but I found Amanda much too unpleasant to compare to that eponymous heroine. This movie is somewhat charming and the cinematography pretty good - some nice shots of New York, as always. All in all, though, I was left wondering why Allen bothers to put out light movies like this, year after year: amusing, yes, but what's really the point?

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