Authors Anonymous: Film Review

Ellie Kanner's comedy concerns a writers' workshop wracked with jealousy when their newest member lands a lucrative publishing deal.

With its mockumentary-style, semi-improvised portrait of a writers' workshop whose mostly untalented members become consumed by jealousy and petty bickering, Authors Anonymous sounds like a terrific concept for a Christopher Guest movie.

Unfortunately, Guest didn’t make it.

Rather, it’s the work of director Ellie Kanner and first-time screenwriter David Congalton, who have produced a tediously unfunny comedy that is chiefly distinguished by the fact that it marks one of the last screen appearances by the late Dennis Farina, who steals the film as a Tom Clancy-obsessed, would-be military-thriller writer.

Utilizing the format that has now become all too cliché-ridden thanks to its endless use in television sitcoms, the movie depicts the jealousy and turmoil that besets the aspiring scribes when their newest member, the bubbly and seemingly vacuous Hannah (Kaley Cuoco), suddenly lands a publishing contract and six-figure film deal.

Naturally this upsets the others, including upscale married couple Alan (Dylan Walsh) and Colette (Teri Polo), the former of whom is constantly dictating ideas for books into his pocket recorder; pizza delivery man and carpet cleaner Henry (Chris Klein), who’s obsessed with F. Scott Fitzgerald and harbors a torch for Hannah; slacker William (Jonathan Bennett), who reveres Charles Bukowski; and the humorously named John K. Butzin (Farina), who takes matters into his own hands by self-publishing his book thanks to a shady overseas outfit called “You Are the Publisher.”

Featuring endless first-person monologues, the pic exploits its characters’ neuroses and pretensions to little comic effect. With the exception of Klein’s unassuming Henry, who seems genuinely sweet, they’re a mostly unappealing bunch, but not in a funny way. The satirical digs are not so much pointed as merely uncomfortable, such as when Butzin attempts a book-signing event at a hardware store only to sit morosely alone, unbothered by the patrons intent on getting past him to purchase supplies.

Cuoco, playing a variation of her character on The Big Bang Theory, is a charming screen presence, but it’s Farina who provides the most fun, especially in a scene involving his sexy, much younger girlfriend (Tricia Helfer) when he turns around and looks directly into the camera with a leering grin planted on his face. It’s a genuinely funny moment, marred only by the realization that we’ll no longer have the opportunity be treated to the actor’s wonderfully deadpan comic style.

Opens: April 18 (Screen Media Films)

Production: Forever Sunny Productions, Bull Market Entertainment

Cast: Kaley Cuoco, Chris Klein, Dennis Farina, Jonathan Bennett, Tricia Helfer, Jonathan Banks, Dylan Walsh, Teri Polo

Director: Ellie Kanner

Screenwriter: David Congalton

Producers: Ellie Kanner, Hal Schwartz

Executive producers: Jonathan Bennett, Kaley Cuoco, Cynthia Guidry, Laine Guidry

Director of photography: Tobias Datum

Editor: Stephen R. Myers

Production designer: Travis Zariwny

Costume designer: Samantha Kuester

Composer: Jeff Cardoni

Rated PG-13, 94 minutes

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