Bull Market Entertainment/Forever Sunny Productions/Screen Media Films/Starz Digital
Directed by Ellie Kanner
Produced by Ellie Kanner and Hal Schwartz
Written by David Congalton
Being a writer myself (Hey, I heard that snickering in the back! You there! You get your coat and get out right now!) I’m always on the lookout for movies about writers and writing. And there’s plenty of good ones out there. Even a few great ones. AUTHORS ANONYMOUS falls in between good and great. It could have been a great one if it hadn’t been for the filmmakers forgetting at many crucial moments that the premise of the movie is supposed to be a mockumentary. It switches between being one and a regular movie and that’s something that gets on my nerves. Much the same way Found Footage movies will switch POVs back and forth. Once you’ve settled on a format and style of telling your movie, have the commitment to stick with it and work within that format instead of simply switching to a straight-up and down movie when it’s convenient.
Having gotten that off my chest, let me just say that if you’re writer, you should see AUTHORS ANONYMOUS. If you’re the spouse or offspring of a writer, you should see AUTHORS ANONYMOUS. If you’re the therapist, psychiatrist or bartender of a writer, you should see AUTHORS ANONYMOUS. Trust me. It’ll explain a lot about the type of writer you are or the type you’re dealing with.
The movie tells the story about a writer’s group. The members are a seriously dysfunctional group and I guarantee that if you’ve got a writer’s group you’ll recognize some members of your group in this one. Henry Obert (Chris Klein) is the nicest guy in the group. He’s also struggling with a severe writer’s block that isn’t helped by his long standing crush on another member of the group, Hanna Rinaldi (Kaley Cuoco). Alan Mooney (Dylan Walsh) is an optometrist who is constantly speaking into his mini-recorder with ideas for books he’ll never write. That’s because he’s way too busy nurturing the earthquake sized ego and insecurity of his wife Colette (Teri Polo) who is amazingly shallow and pretentious. She’s the type of writer who believes with all her heart she’s divinely imbued with writing ability. William Bruce (Jonathan Bennett) sees himself as the new Bukowski and rewrites the same three pages over and over and over again. John K. Butzin ( Dennis Farina) is rock solid in his belief that he’s the heir apparent to Tom Clancy’s throne and is convinced that just as soon as his cousin’s neighbor’s best friend gets his book “Roaring Lion” into the hands of Clint Eastwood, it’ll be the next blockbuster movie.
The group is disrupted by the news that Hanna has gotten an agent and there’s a very good chance the book will be published. While on the surface the other members of the group are supportive and happy, underneath they’re spewing volcanoes of resentment and jealousy. Especially from Collette and John K. Butzin who are the most delusional and hungry for attention and proceed to launch their own campaigns to get published by any means necessary. And as Hanna’s star continues to rise with a movie deal impending, the group as a whole gets more and more frustrated and desperate.
Now before you start thinking the wrong way, let me say that first and foremost this is a comedy and an extremely funny one. And it’s funny because there’s a lot of truth in it that if you’re a writer and hang out with other writers you’ll recognize it. Part of the group’s resentment of Hanna’s success comes from the fact that when it comes to writing and literature, Hanna is totally ignorant. In fact, Henry damn near has a stroke on the spot when Hanna reluctantly admits to him that she’s never read “The Great Gatsby”. Kaley Cuoco really surprised me in this movie as she didn’t play a version of her Penny character from “The Big Bang Theory” Hanna is a totally different type of person, one who is far more in touch with her talent than the other members of the group because she doesn’t take herself so seriously. She wrote a book because she thought it would be fun and not because she thought it would change the destiny of human civilization.
Dennis Farina, Teri Polo and believe it or not, Tricia Helfer as John K. Butzin’s German mail order girlfriend Sigrid walk away with the acting honors here. The level of John K. Butzin’s delusion about his talent is mindboggling. No matter what goes wrong with his plans to become a published author, he manages to turn it into just another part of his belief that he’s destined to be a success. Teri Polo’s Collette has that really creepy narcissistic bent that way too many writers have and she manages to make it utterly hilarious. But at the same time she wrings every last drop of sympathy out of a later scene where she simply just can’t take it anymore that Hanna is where she always dreamed of being and she’s not.
So should you see AUTHORS ANONYMOUS? Absolutely. I enjoyed the premise and the performances and it made me laugh a lot. It’s got enough insights into the hopes and dreams and yes, delusions of aspiring writers that if you’re a writer yourself and don’t take yourself too seriously, you’ll have a good time watching it. It’s available for streaming on Netflix right now. Enjoy.