Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ack! Authors Anonymous Underwhelms

The Good: Good cast
The Bad: Not funny, Not clever, Lousy characters, Banal plot, Some poor performances
The Basics: Another movie that focuses on writers, Authors Anonymous does not add anything to the gestalt and goes a long way to proving that Kaley Cuoco is either a poor actress or already typecast.

When it comes to movies, there are not actually a huge number that focus on writers. Ones that do have writers as a subject tend not to capture the realism of the experience and those that do inexorably prove there is little entertainment value in the life of most writers. Writers struggle with developing their art in a world where the written word is much more a function of profit motive and business interests than artistic integrity. At the other end of the spectrum are films that are parodies of a writer’s life – usually with the subjects being flamboyant celebrities living in ostentatious ways with no real struggle to create. Authors Anonymous treads much closer to the realistic side . . . with a ridiculous plot and characters acting as a foil to the wrenching struggle of being a writer.

Authors Anonymous is the latest cinematic vehicle for actress Kaley Cuoco from The Big Bang Theory (Season Six is now reviewed here!) and it is a huge disappointment for those who are her fans or who had hope that her role as Penny was the result of great acting. The superlative element of Authors Anonymous is the film’s cast. Despite how poorly it is used, the cast of Authors Anonymous is a good one that includes Teri Polo, Dylan Walsh, Dennis Farina, and Tricia Helfer. Packed with notable character actors, like Jonathan Banks and Meagan Fay, the movie has recognizable faces that will instantly thrill comedy viewers. Unfortunately, the execution does not allow any of the performers to truly play to their strengths.

Opening with Colette and Alan Mooney submitting themselves to a reality show on writers, their group of writers is explored. Hannah Rinaldi is a somewhat dippy blond, who studied composition, Henry Obert is a pizza delivery man who writes semi-autobiographical novels, John Butzin idolizes Tom Clancy, Collette writes as a means of processing, William Bruce seems to want to be a writer to score, and the “leader of the group” is optometrist Alan Mooney who formed the group to help Collette with her “hobby.” On the night Henry is about ready to tell Hannah how he feels about her – an infuriating night when William brings around a three-page manuscript in which he only changed a single word – Hannah arrives late with the revelation that she has gotten an agent.

Hannah’s revelation causes shock amongst the members of the writing group. Colette tries to bribe Hannah into giving her agent some of her own work, while Butzin opts to self-publish one of his books in order to keep up. When Alan tries to get one of his patients, agent David Kelleher, to read Colette’s manuscript, he proves he will do anything to try to help his wife. With the members of the writing group feeling pressure to perform because of Hannah’s “success” and with the documentary cameras on them, they begin to completely fall apart.

Authors Anonymous is a fractured film; the movie is split on focusing on the way the writers struggle – with ridiculous asides that illustrate each of the writers’ processes, like the way William simply eavesdrops at restaurants to try to get realistic dialogue – and an underdeveloped relationship story between Henry and Hannah. Henry and Hannah have no on-screen chemistry and their arc together is predictable and contrived. There is no substantive reason given for why Henry is so interested in Hannah (other than his writer's block leads him to fixate on the closest person to him?); it is simply that she is the female lead and Chris Klein is the top-billed male lead, so his character of Henry must be meant for her!

Kaley Cuoco is playing a ditz virtually identical to Penny. The recurring question asked of Hannah – “Who is your favorite author?” – is answered more by her “assistant” Maureen than by her. But Cuoco is not the only one typecast. Teri Polo plays yet another educated, ambitious, but somehow unsuccessful, character. Dylan Walsh is, yet again, put in the role of a loving husband who is entirely more devoted than his wife is. None of the characters truly pop and none of them give the performers a chance to illustrate anything new that we have not seen from them before.

Writer David Congalton turns in a script that is utterly lacking in charm. Authors Anonymous is not funny, it is not heartwarming or heart-wrenching and it is utterly lacking in good or even interesting lines. Instead, Authors Anonymous is a waste of an hour and a half.

For other works with Teri Polo, be sure to visit my reviews of:
The West Wing - Season Seven
The West Wing - Season Six
Meet The Parents
Sports Night
Northern Exposure - Season Six


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2014 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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