There is a type of comedy in which the hero (or heroine) allows a sketchy friend to help him/her make a sketchy choice.
Poor judgement is funny, or at least leads to comic situations. Jason Bateman’s character in Extract, for instance, is lead down this path by Ben Affleck’s Dean, a dodgy fellow if ever there was one. And one guaranteed to make the worst suggestion in any circumstance.
This comic trope lets the main character remain heroic and redeemable. On other occasions, often the funny is in the delusional justifications for bad behavior.
Wrong decisions coupled with an indignant sense of righteousness (as Danny McBride exhibits in Arizona, for example) become hiliarious.
Complications arise from the initial missteps, and are compounded as the errors compound. The set-up builds to additional troubles in an onslaught of the outtrageous.
The farce has a time-honored tradition. It’s as old as the hills in art-form years. So why my personal distaste for it. Too much chaos and running about is the only thing I can point a finger at with any certainty.
The average farce puts a lot of value in silliness. (✔, not an essential for me, but ok.)
Silliness rather than gravity or satire is the main point of farce. (Xthis does not attract me, particularly to slapstick or farce.)
They run in and out of doors, sometimes carrying sardines. (That’s it. I am not fond of that, even though RTC’s not so recent production of Noises Offwas rather fun.)
The slamming doors thing is something I like to see reserved for household tiffs.
All that said, the farce is sometimes irrestible. Take for instance, Something Rotten!, underappreciated by the Tony voters, but valiantly drawing laughter long after the ceremonies. I loved it! In truth, it may not really be so much farce as send up. The trilogy of House and Garden brought us in, eagerly, to see all three pieces, slamming doors and all. Lend Me A Tenoris reliably as delightfully foolish as Fortune’s Fool, for instance. It Shoulda Been You is another example of the farcical theater that was marginally entertaining, and featured a fan fave of ours, Tyne Daly.
Of course, when we call something a farce, we are denigrating it, to some extent. We mean it’s ridiculous. it’s just that at the theater, the ridiculous can, so often, transcend!
For Pete’s Sake, What’s Up Doc? and She’s Funny That Wayhave more in common than an apostrophe “s”. The first two share Barbra Streisand in the lead. All three have directors named Peter, the first a Yates and the other two Bogdanovic. Add to the coincidences that both What’s Up Doc? and For Pete’s Sake use the cinematography of László Kovács, while She’s Funny That Way uses the camera work of Yaron Orbach.
All three are also zany, yet realistic farces.
She’s Funny That Way stars Imogen Poots, a completely charming British actress whose Queens –NooYawk–accent is so spot on that its hard to imagine her having success in film or theater. It also features Owen Wilson, Kathryn Hahn, George Morfogen, Austin Pendleton*, Tovah Feldshuh and Cybil Sheperd among others in its brilliant ensemble. Will Forte and Jennifer Aniston play a couple whose dysfunction is a monument to bad judgement. (*BTW, in a farceur-like coincidence Austin Pendleton is also in the 1972 film What’s Up Doc?)
In film, a farce has always been known universally as a screwball comedy, and the screwiness in the “apostrophe s trio” is just delightful. Mistaken identity, characters bumping into each other in improbable situations, and under false pretenses are all part of the plot points that move the story along. You anticipate what will happen and are surprised when it does. Grab a fake mustache, and join me for dinner at Nick’s.