Peter Bogdanovich brings some old-school Hollywood wit and charm to Venice, as well as the biggest laughs of the festival thus far, with his screwball New York comedy, She’s Funny That Way. Though over 40 years have passed since he directed What’s Up, Doc? Bogdanovich shows he still has his comedic chops. And in a nice reference to that comedy, Austin Pendleton also appears here, this time as a judge obsessed with a call girl (“She’s the only woman who doesn’t sound like my grandmother!”).

Pendleton is one of many in this collective bedroom farce that revolves around the character of Arnold, a theatre director putting on a Broadway play written by Josh (Will Forte) and starring his wife Delta (Kathryn Hahn), Seth (Rhys Ifans) and a yet-to-be-cast actress playing a call girl. When Arnold arrives in NYC a day before his wife and kids, the first thing he does is call his reliable escort service and in steps Izzy (Imogen Poots), aka Glo. Rather than hiring her for an hour, Arnold takes her out for drinks and dinner, followed by a coach ride in the park before having great sex. Offering her $30,000 if she promises to give up her profession, Arnold bids Izzy farewell, but not before Seth has seen her leaving the hotel room. When Izzy – now Isabella Patterson – shows up to audition for the prostitute part the following day, it all starts getting complicated. Throw in Jane (Jennifer Aniston), Josh’s girlfriend and world’s most unprofessional psychiatrist, and Josh’s gumshoe detective dad, and the stage is set for a comic romp.

There is much to remind us of early Woody Allen films here, from the music to the repartee, but really Bogdanovich is taking us further back, and it is this that makes the film so appealing. We are not asked to analyse why a character behaves in a certain way, we are just required to sit back and enjoy seeing that character try to extricate themselves from a tricky situation. Yet there is nothing tricky about Bogdanovich’s directing: he’s treading familiar ground, but we are happy to tread that ground with him for an hour and a half.

Aniston is superb here as the brittle and unlikeable shrink, her first really good film role since The Good Girl. If Aniston can walk away from all those romantic comedies and just stick to the comedy we will be in for a treat. There are also some surprising and entertaining cameos, while British actor Poots is charming and funny as this Brooklyn girl who we meet at the very start as a more polished and successful actor chatting to a journalist in Hollywood whilst reminiscing about her lucky break with Arnold. And it is her character who speaks for the director when recalling the golden age of Hollywood. This may not be up to the standards of that wonderful age, but it is a good reminder of all those great movies and Bogdanovich has created a humorous homage.