MOVIE REVIEW: ‘Authors Anonymous’

authors anonymous

Film: Authors Anonymous
Directed by: Ellie Kanner
Starring: Kaley Cuoco, Chris Klein, Dennis Farina

Good or bad, Authors Anonymous would still be worth watching if for no other reason than it represents the final performance of Dennis Farina. The criminally underrated actor passed away in July, left behind more than 30 years of memorable film and television performances, and I still haven’t gotten over his egregious omission from the “In Memoriam” tribute at this year’s Academy Awards.

As much as I love complaining about the Oscars, I’m sure there will be another time for that. This is a film review, after all. But Farina’s performance in this film, adding a lovable and relatable layer to an otherwise smarmy, narcissistic and slightly delusional aspiring novelist is exemplary of his excellent body of work.

Authors Anonymous takes the fake documentary approach to its story of a six-member group of writers who meet once a week to discuss and critique each other’s work. The leader of the group is an optometrist (Nip/Tuck‘s Dylan Walsh), who records plenty of ideas on his digital voice recorder, but never actually writes anything. He really just put the group together to make his wife (Meet The Parents‘ Teri Polo) happy and give her the push she needs to get her career as a romance novelist off the ground.

The group is rounded out by the artist more commonly known as Aaron Samuels (Jonathan Bennett), the “suck me, beautiful” dude from American Pie (Chris Klein) and that girl from The Big Bang Theory who every nerd seems to have a crush on (Kaley Cuoco). Director Ellie Kanner has spent most of her career as a casting director, so I guess it shouldn’t surprise me that as much of a hodgepodge as this cast might appear on paper, every character is perfectly cast. I mean, you can make all the Rollerball jokes you want (and they’re all warranted), but Klein is actually quite endearing as the dopey, overly sensitive guy. It worked in Election. It worked in American Pie. And it works again here.

Whether it’s a byproduct of the casting or the fact that we see this type of mockumentary storytelling on TV so often these days (or more likely both), the film has a distinct small-screen feel. It uses very few locations and most of the interactions are limited to the six aforementioned characters. We also get those sit-down interview segments that have become so trendy in recent years.

One question the interviewer (whoever that is) keeps asking Cuoco’s character: “Who is your favorite author?” That’s because Cuoco refuses to offer an answer — not because she has too many favorites to pick just one, but because she doesn’t appear to have ever actually read a book. Klein, as a nerd who quotes The Great Gatsby and spews useless knowledge about F. Scott Fitzgerald, naturally has a crush on Cuoco’s character, but he and the rest of the group become resentful when her career becomes the first one to take off. She’s young, attractive and successful — so she must be sleeping with her agent, right?

But is it possible that she’s just a more naturally gifted writer? Is her writing somehow improved by the fact that she doesn’t read, and thus, her words aren’t filtered through a mind that has consumed those of the greats? That’s really an impossible question to answer, and one the film refuses to make any sort of hypothesis on.

As cliched as five of these six characters and their relationships are, the actors inject them with zest to keep us from losing interest. And even then, there is still Farina. His crusty Tom Clancy-worshipping John K. Butzin (great name, right?) is both heartbreaking and inspiring as he boasts about publishing his war novel through the “credible” self-publishing site U R The Publisher, compulsively checks his rankings on Amazon and sets up a book signing at the local hardware store of all places. Hell, book stores are dropping like flies these days anyway.

I enjoyed Authors Anonymous on the same level that I enjoy any good sit-com. It’s the type of thing that goes down easy after a hard day’s work and gives you a few belly laughs without having to worry about anything too traumatic happening. And also like any good sit-com, I wanted to get to know these characters (especially Butzin) a little better and spend some more time with them. Unfortunately, Authors Anonymous is a movie, so I guess that’s both a compliment and a critique.

Grade: C+

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