The charmingly comedic writer flick, Authors Anonymous, is in theaters, and available on VOD. It is a must-see movie that captures all things ridiculous when it comes to the creative process of sharing one’s “writerly” voice and competing in a pool of metaphor-wielding misfits.
Directed by Ellie Kanner (For the Love of Money), the film stars Kaley Cuoco Sweeting (The Big Bang Theory) as protagonist Hannah who meets immediate success, Chris Klein (American Pie) who portrays the only novelist with potential named Henry, Dylan Walsh (Nip / Tuck) as optometrist Alan who runs the writer’s group, Teri Polo (Meet the Parents) who plays Alan’s shallow wife Colette, Jonathan Bennett (Mean Girls) as the Bukowski-ish poser William, and the late Dennis Farina (The Last Rites of Joe May) in one of his final, and perhaps most hilarious onscreen roles, as John K. Butzin, the writer who stops at nothing to succeed.
The movie follows the six creative writers from all backgrounds during regular workshop meetings- that is, until Hannah gets an agent. Jealousy ensues and tempers flare when the remaining writers are desperate to compete for the spotlight and publish their often flailing and pretentious stories, yet they don’t ever tell each other that most of it is overworked gibberish and underdeveloped dribble. This is, of course, all for the sake of unity and support in the safe circle that writers create for emotional security. However, after much experience in writing circles on the academic level, I was immediately on board with this documentary-style film that elevates any and every writer stereotype there is. Sure, it lacks the overall depth that many comedic movies about writers movies have (for example, Shakespeare in Love, Midnight in Paris, and Wonder Boys to name a few) and plays on clichés to get the story going, but it’s harmless amusement that lets the writers in the audience escape the sting of their creative, tortured reality.
Newcomer scribe David Congalton’s collection of characters makes each scene effective, moving successfully with a take-no-prose-prisoners attempt at literary survival of the fittest. Hannah doesn’t have a favorite writer and can’t remember details if her life depended on it. Henry is so stuck in love with Hannah that he’s blocked. Alan records delusional plot ideas and silly characters names for stories he never writes. Colette pouts her way through nonsensical harlequin romances with more adverbs than necessarily necessary. William spends most of his time hitting on waitresses rather than writing. And lastly, John K. Butzin leaps into bottom barrel self-publishing with the help of his German bride-to-be, Sigrid (played by Tricia Helfer) who works at a hardware store.
The audience is not only privileged to the quirky ensemble during their workshop sessions, but a solid portion of the movie is conducted interview style, a la TV’s Modern Family. This technique is perfectly executed so that each character can expose their eccentricities, and allows for the actors to play with comic timing in their individual monologues. Not to mention, the repeated love and name-dropping of classic literary heroes, like one F. Scott Fitzgerald, to keep the ball of hope rolling for these impractical personalities over the course of their jargoned journey.
I was pleasantly surprised to find how much I liked this movie, even though I am often bias when it comes to films about writers (meaning, that I usually like them). I wasn’t terribly impressed with the cast list before watching Authors Anonymous, but came to love the cutthroat comedy because it carries on with all the right elements of storytelling- pun intended. Watching this movie was an ideal way to find refuge outside of my own personal spiraling sphere of wordsmithery, for all of a very fun and entertaining hour-and-a-half.
Rating: The movie packs some pun-ny punch, inflating the struggle of the 21st century writer (7/10).