Review: Peter Bogdanovich ‘Lost’ Final Film SQUIRRELS TO THE NUTS

4 out of 5 stars

It appeared that Peter Bogdanovich‘s final narrative feature was the enjoyable but lightweight 2014 film, She’s Funny That Way. Starring Owen Wilson, Imogen Poots, Kathryn Hahn, Will Forte, Rhys Ifans and Jennifer Aniston, the screwball comedy never felt like a true cohesive vision from the master writer-director. It was a film which paled in comparison to films such as 1971’s The Last Picture Show, What’s Up, Doc? (1972) and Paper Moon (1973) and it appeared the auteur had lost his touch and delivered a serviceable but somewhat unremarkable feature. The reality of the situation was very different – because She’s Funny That Way wasn’t the film that Peter Bogdanovich set out to make. 

Originally filmed as Squirrels To The Nuts, Bogdanovich’s vision was compromised during post-production and after he finished his edit, he conducted reshoots and removed a lot of the film’s multi-strand plot. It was believed the director’s original cut was lost all together but James Kenney, life-long fan of Peter Bogdanovich was trawling through eBay when he noticed a HD tape for sale, titled Squirrels To The Nuts. The label on the tape stated a running time much longer than that of the final film – and It transpired that Kenney had discovered what is likely the only remaining copy of Bogdanovich’s original edit. We’re not talking about some scratchy rough cut – what Kenney discovered was a near pristine final film. 

Kenney connected with Bogdanovich, who began working to get his version of the film released. The filmmaker died in January 2022 before he could achieve this, but Squirrels To The Nuts received a limited run at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Bogdanovich’s vision was finally seen by audiences. 

Squirrels To The Nuts is a markedly different film. Gone is the haphazard framing device which sees Imogen Poots’s call girl-turned starlet talking to Illena Douglas’s journalist. The new cut gives each character a full introduction, letting the film breathe in a way which She’s Funny That Way fails to do. Squirrels To The Nuts is much more focused, letting scenes play out in their natural form in a fashion which is more in-keeping with Bogdanovich’s directorial style.

The original release featured a lot of ‘tell don’t show’ due to it’s last minute voiceover narration – a major no-no for film-making. However, Bogdanovich’s director’s cut has more ‘show don’t tell’ and the audience gets to figure out on their own what is happening on screen. Gone is the Quentin Tarantino cameo from She’s Funny That Way (it was cool but it made no sense) and in comes Stephen Dorff and Joanna Lumley (who had a post-credits cameo in the original) and music cues from Frank Sinatra and Tom Petty. Ultimately, Squirrels To The Nuts also features a much more satisfying (and sensical) conclusion than the version released eight years ago. 

Speaking of satisfying conclusions – it’s something of a cinematic miracle that Peter Bogdanovich’s Squirrels To The Nuts was ever released. The movie gods have granted divine dispensation for the film’s discovery and it’s great to know that Bogdanovich was able to leave cineasts one final film.