Film: Authors Anonymous

October 14, 2022

Indie romcom Authors Anonymous (2014) has a very specific target audience, and as such might fly right over the casual viewer’s head. But for anyone who’s ever been in a dysfunctional writing group, it’s an amusing watch. Framed as a mockumentary, it follows the aspirations and struggles of a group of Southern California writers trying to break into the literary world. Unfortunately, most of them are terrible writers. The leader of the group, Alan Mooney (Dylan Walsh), satisfies himself with merely coming up with ideas he never sees through, while his wife Colette (Teri Polo) writes florid, purple romances. William (Jonathan Bennett) is a lazy, mooching poser and John K. Butzin (Dennis Farina) is a cocky thriller-writing know-it-all. The only real talent in the group belongs to the thoughtful Henry Obert (Chris Klein) and the hard-working Hannah Rinaldi (Kaley Cuoco). The group’s incompetent but collegial critique sessions grow more and more quarrelsome when Hannah lands a literary agent and her career starts to take off, kicking off waves of hard feelings and jealousy among the others—and ultimately complicating the efforts of Henry to ask Hannah out.

The humor in Authors Anonymous is uneven, and be forewarned, the film is targeted almost exclusively at writers, whose familiarity with the interpersonal dynamics and personality clashes of critique groups is roundly and effectively satirized. It frequently rings true in its broader strokes, particularly in its character breakdown, with Farina standing out as the aspiring writer most of us call “that guy:” the pompous, self-obsessed blowhard who speaks about himself in the third person. It also captures the awkwardness and frustrations engendered in such a setting when one member’s success starts to wreak havoc on the collective, and in general it displays familiar insight into the cringeworthy aspects of the world of aspiring writers. The central romantic throughline involving Hannah and Henry isn’t particularly satisfying, unfortunately, although Cuoco and Klein are good in the roles. And the structural escalations and resolution tend to unrealistically overshoot. (Indeed, the same qualities that make the film’s humor work for writers also make it quite vulnerable to criticism about its details, specifically regarding the publishing industry.) But overall it’s an agreeable, funny watch if you fall within its target demographic.