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The Giant Mechanical Man: Tribeca Review

the giant mechanical man trailer screengrab - H 2012
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The Bottom Line

Romance about two underachievers is something of an underachiever itself.

Venue

Tribeca Film Festival, World Narrative Competition

Director-Screenwriter

Lee Kirk

Cast

Jenna Fischer, Chris Messina, Topher Grace, Malin Akerman, Rich Sommer

Lee Kirk's romantic comedy starring Chris Messina and Jenna Fisher follows an aspiring street performer who catches the eye of a fellow underachiever.

NEW YORK — A romance whose anodyne find-your-bliss theme is likeable but underwhelming, Lee Kirk's The Giant Mechanical Man doesn't fully exploit its premise's charms. A cast of familiar faces helps theatrical prospects, though, especially with everyone playing roles well within their comfort zones.

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Jenna Fischer (writer/director Kirk's wife) plays Janice, whose persistent inability to find a suitable job or boyfriend is never explained; we meet her just as a temp agency is firing her, sending the now-homeless lonelyheart to live with sister Jill (Malin Akerman). Across town, Chris Messina's Tim is also getting the boot, though his abandonment (by girlfriend Lucy Punch) is more easily understood: Tim's girlfriend is just tired of waiting for his "career" as a street performer to develop into something meaningful or lucrative.
 
Tim connects with Janice early on, but only in his performing disguise -- wearing stilts and a metallic-looking suit, painted silver, standing motionless on Detroit's streets as a mirror of the passersby whose worker-bee lives he disdains. When the two actually meet -- both reluctantly take menial jobs at the zoo -- Tim keeps his secret identity to himself and, despite the easy camaraderie between them, takes forever before asking her out.
 
The inevitability of the couple's relationship is never thrown into question by Jill's attempts to set Janice up with a self-help charlatan (Topher Grace). If Grace's character were genuinely charming or smooth, there'd be reason (however formulaic) to worry, but even at Jill's most insecure, she's clearly not vulnerable to the author's it-works-on-paper attempt at courtship. His continued presence onscreen is one of the most transparently artificial obstacles to love in the history of rom-coms, and viewers slog through it just like Janice selling concessions to zoo-going school kids.

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival, World Narrative Competition
Production companies: Stealth Media Group, Votiv Films, Taggart Productions, Andycat Production
Cast: Jenna Fischer, Chris Messina, Topher Grace, Malin Akerman, Rich Sommer, Lucy Punch, Bob Odenkirk
Director-Screenwriter: Lee Kirk
Producers: Molly Hassell, Jenna Fischer, Michael Nardelli
Executive producers: Brent Siefel, Michael Cowan, Michael Gallant, Tim Nardelli, Mike Ilitch Jr., Glenn P. Murray
Director of photography: Doug Emmett
Production designer: Paulette Georges
Music: Rich Ragsdale
Costume designer: Mona May
Editor: Robert Komatsu
Sales: Stealth Media Group
PG-13, 89 minutes