[Review] – The Giant Mechanical Man

14 May

Title: The Giant Mechanical Man
Year: 2012
Director: Lee Kirk
Writer: Lee Kirk
Starring: Jenna Fischer, Chris Messina, Topher Grace, Malin Akerman, Lucy Punch, Bob Odenkirk, Rich Sommer
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some sexual content and brief strong language
Runtime: 94 min
IMDb Rating: 4.7
Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Metacritic: 43

The Giant Mechanical Man, a film written and directed by Lee Kirk as a vehicle for his wife, The Office‘s Jenna Fischer, is a nice enough film, it offers up a charming little romance with a light and optimistic approach to love that works most of the time because of the group of actors assembled to play out this story, even if it does try a bit too hard to be quirky and offbeat. The plot revolves around Ms. Fischer’s Janice, who’s just totally down on her luck, trying to find her way in life, something that fulfills her, as she has to live with her sister who, though she certainly means well, can be quite overbearing.

The script, admittedly, is not that great. It’s just a bit too simple at times, and don’t get me wrong, I love films that are told in super simple ways; I just don’t necessarily like films that being telling something in a simple way also feel super simplistic. The story it tells in such simple ways is that of a romantic connection that happens between Janice and Tim, played by Chris Messina, who’s also not all that high up on the economic ladder, working as a street artist, a living statue, or, well, living robot sort of thing. They’re kindred souls in a way, so we get to see how their connection starts becoming so much more, even as Janice’s sister, Jill, is trying to hook her up with this arrogant motivational speaker played by Topher Grace.

What makes The Giant Mechanical Man work in some level is the fact that even though the script isn’t great, the direction by Mr. Kirk (and this is his directing debut) is actually rather solid, knowing how to handle the tone he wants to strike with this story as well as the cast he assembled to tell it. Ms. Fischer is good because she’s so likable, and she knows how to play Janice really nicely, not making her feel overly fake-ish by making her be down on her luck but high on her spirits, instead go all out and actually making Janice rather sad, though not annoyingly so. And Mr. Messina is a pretty underrated actor who I liked see taking a more leading kind of role here. But the film, acting-wise, actually belongs to Mr. Grace, who just absolutely steals this film from his co-stars in such a ridiculous role he no doubt was having a lot of fun with.

There’s just a lot of stuff here that I thought wasn’t articulated upon quite enough. Yes, I realize this story, like I said, is a super simple tale about how two people can connect and how there’s someone for everyone, or something along those lines, and as that it does work, but it could have worked so much better had there been some exploration of the unemployment issues on display or about what moved Tim to be the kind of man who’s just this street artist. The film is worth watching because these are likable actors, but I’d reckon there’s a better film in here had some of those issues hadn’t been merely glossed over.

At least the film doesn’t really act as though sidestepping around certain things makes it a bit worse. If anything, for a movie about people who are quite confused and trying to find themselves, The Giant Mechanical Man is actually pretty damn confident. Like I said, the film does try a bit too hard to be all whimsical and such, from the minute you see a girl spilling her feelings to a street performer painted in silver and walking in stilts you know you’re in for a quirk-fest of some kind. Quirkier still is the unbelievable coincidence that the two then get jobs at the local zoo and they find each other again, even though Janice doesn’t recognize Tim without the make-up and extra height. Forced quirkiness aside, it’s all just a bit too neat and convenient for me to really like it.

For all its shortcomings, however, The Giant Mechanical Man really does end up finding a way to really win you over. It’s obviously all because of the performances, but I just wasn’t expecting to like this film as much as I did considering all the little faults I found in it. But, like I say, the performances are too charming not to eventually give in. Lee Kirk really is a great husband, and one who knows his wife well, because he’s crafted a vehicle that’s perfect for Ms. Fischer’s talents, knowing that she can make stuff look and feel extremely relatable as she works her everyday-kinda-girl charms like crazy. It’s her, and the chemistry in the scenes she shares with Mr. Messina, that made me actually feel that this works as some kind of light and slim movie for a quiet Sunday.

What I thought of the most watching this one, though, wasn’t anything about the film itself, but rather about what kind of actress Ms. Fischer would become after her time in The Office comes to an end. I mean, the show’s already renewed for a ninth (ninth!) season, and she’s on board, but the gas is running out of that NBC staple, and I’d actually like it if they make the ninth season a nice final farewell for those great characters. But yeah, Ms. Fischer will soon find herself without a regular day job and I’m not sure what she’ll do. She could go on to another TV project, or shallow supporting roles in mainstream comedies like Hall Pass or Blades of Glory, or she could take the leading role in small indie films like this one or last year’s A Little Help and be the best thing about an otherwise merely-okay film. That’s what I thought of the most, and I’m not sure what she’ll opt for, nor am I sure about what I’d personally like the best for her actually, but I do know that I’ll be watching.

Grade: B-

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4 Responses to “[Review] – The Giant Mechanical Man”

  1. AndyWatchesMovies May 15, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    I was really taken by the trailer, so I’d like to get a chance to see this sometime. Plus, I used to have a thing for Jenna Fischer.

    • ArtfullyBedraggled May 15, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

      Well if you like Jenna Fischer then this is definitely going to work for you, this one’s all about her being lovely and charming

  2. Me October 3, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

    I really like your review and agree with every word. Also, feeling in “that place” as the movie characters it made me relate more. Maybe even cry a bit while watching 😀 Anyway, loved reading this. Thank you

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