The Giant Mechanical Man (2012)
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Your movie made me cry ...
Realizing the significance of the powerful and positive impact that taking the time to "stop and smell the roses" (sorry) can deliver to ones very psyche seems to be unknown, forever lost or perhaps, just ignored by many of us. How did this happen? What factors perpetuate this selfish, though possibly mutually beneficial simple act of awareness? Beats me. Maybe such "numbness" is simply a symptom of that insidious disease commonly known as The Dumbing Down Of America. Don't we all want to understand and to be understood? I do. So,I try.
Of course, these questions weren't answered in The Giant Mechanical Man, but I've never seen a movie come closer to clearly illustrating those truths. This beautifully written, acted and photographed film is a gem!
See it. See it without wearing your critic's eyeglasses...shields down! If you do, you'll be rewarded
All those who are digging there way out in life can really find some true inspiration from this one.
In addition to the romance elements the movie speaks very well to people who aren't happy with a formulaic life. Janice and Tim don't want the same things out of life that their friends think they should want. The film captures the isolation they feel as they make their way together. The importance of being true to what you are is well demonstrated.
To top it all off the back story of the movie is just as fun. Jenna and Lee found each other through the making of this movie. She joked that it's easier to find a man, fall in love and have a baby than to get an independent film made. I'm very happy for them both in their personal success and in this very enjoyable movie. Find the movie in a small theatre near you, or check it out on demand.
It shows the viewer two ways of living and thinking about life, a mainstream one and an "alternative" one. The film has excellent timing, editing, and performances. The cast similarly brings together increasingly well known and lesser know but very talented actresses and actors. A must see indie film!
If I were to sum up my experience viewing this film in a sentence, it would be: This film has all the tell-tale signs of being written by a try-hard, vapid, parentally subsidized, film school attending hipster who is too far divorced from reality to convince me that I should feel for any of the protagonists in the film. I know that Lee Kirk is probably far from being that kind of person, but his film conveyed that message to me.
Jenna Fischer and Chris Messina star as two aimless (or let's not sugar-coat it, USELESS) adults in their 30s, the former who can't seem to hold down a job, and the latter who is a quarters-per-day street performer who lives in a giant urban loft with his girlfriend who is about to break up with him. Now don't get me wrong, having unemployed, 30+ year old millennials as protagonists have worked well before because through the evolution of the plot, they reveal likable and respectable qualities about themselves. That was not the case in this film. The only thing that they convinced me of, perhaps too many times, is that they "feel lost", they "don't know" what they want to do with their lives, and that they have the angst I'd expect from a 14-year-old at a Death Cab For Cutie concert.
The plot of the film focuses on the struggle that these aimless 30 something protagonists have against the antagonists portrayed by the working adults in the film who "have it together" and "have their lives figured out". Since the protagonists by themselves don't give me any reason to like them by themselves, the film resorts to an unbelievably farcical portrayal of the latter cohort that paints them as so lacking in any empathy and emotional maturity that I couldn't help but cringe anytime one of these characters received any screen time: the two cheesy guys in suits publicly bragging about their Christmas bonuses at the company party (seriously, who wears suits to a company party), the hiring manager at the temp agency (who fires Jenna Fischer in such a farcically unauthentic manner that in reality, it would sound 'lawsuit' bells employment lawyers everywhere), and Malin Ackerman's character who won't stop pestering her older sister, and forcing Topher Grace's character on her. And Topher Grace, good grief - what sane working adult would think that an over-the-top narcissistic, corny inspirational speaker who half fills conference centers at your local airport's Holiday Inn is a model of success in this day and age? I've seen more believable exposition in Hillary Duff movies.
At the end of all this, I was left wondering - is this the level of comical absurdity you have to relegate employed, marginally successful members of society just so that, in juxtaposition with our worthless 30 something protagonists, we're supposed to identify with them? Sorry, not me.
It is, however, a new take on a common story line, and the writer/director does an excellent job of creating parallels. There are only so many new takes you can get on young adult romances involving those misdirected or lost and confused, so it's worth seeing for that and a variety of subtle insights.
As is befitting a giant mechanical age of program loops, it is easy to see how a giant mechanical man could have ended up writing this story as part of a biography.
But I'm still disappointed Jenna's character didn't do something about the artificial zoo juice.
I am not familiar with this Chris Messina actor, but he nailed his role. Maybe he used a piece of himself to sculpt the character or maybe he just intuitively understood him. Either way, he was a joy to watch.
I was worried that it was going to drift into the dangerous waters of mocking mainstream people. It didn't really, although there is one scene that bordered on that.
I don't think these lost-soul characters were jealous of others or even resentful. That's what I loved. They realized that they were dancing to the beat of their own drummer.
The male lead especially was for the most part resigned to his fate. Like another reviewer so adeptly pointed out: he was already doing what he wanted to do. The girl was not as comfortable with herself.
Jenna Fischer is interesting, because she is mostly deadpan, in The Office and this movie, and she is almost hot in both too. If she was a bit hotter, you would not picture her as a loner.
Topher Grace delivers his standard blend of underplayed sarcasm and underdog wit. I enjoyed him, and I think that someone who is not familiar with his routine, would enjoy him even more if this is their first time.
Hats off to the writer Lee Kirk. The dialogue in the T.V. interview scene is excellent, as is the exchange when the ex girlfriend apologizes. Impressive wording and spot-on delivery.
I don't think this film was trying to slam you over the head with a message that people are on a mindless merry-go-round. I think it was just showing you that there are some people out there who move at their own pace and want less out of life.
This point was not brought up, but such people might find peace in Western Europe...or at least before immigration and bankruptcy changed it. If you're not ambitious and you're into art or long walks, Europe might work for you.
I wouldn't want America to become like Europe, because the world needs America to be ambitious and morally focused. But I can see where quiet loners would fit better in Europe.
Lee Kirk's "The Giant Mechanical Man" stars Chris Messina as a street performer who parodies the drudgery of consumer capitalism by dressing up as a giant robotic man. In love with him is Janice, infectiously played by Jenna Fischer, a middle aged woman who likewise feels out-of-sync with the world. Both characters drift aimlessly through life, finding little value in civilizational offerings and sceptical of the slogans, buzzwords and rituals of those around them.
"Man" has been criticised for its one dimensional portrayal of everyone outside of its romantic couple. But that is also the point. Like an indie version of philosopher Herbert Marcuse's "One-Dimensional Man", Lee's portraying a society that has been moulded, institutionalised and preconditioned to accept what is essentially shared psychosis. Lee's characters are obsessed with conquest, acquisition, marketing themselves (and others), and assigning value to everything and anything they touch. Writing for an economic journal decades ago, Albert Einstein would denounce this as man's "predatory phase", but to Janice and Chris, it's nothing less than poison. Everyone else thinks they're nuts.
Regardless, "Mechanical Man" struggles to sustain its message. The film eventually devolves into indie-clichés and a terrible final credits sequence in which love and penguins conquer all. The film contains an interesting subplot "about" silent film, and includes a scene in which Janice dons baggy clothes, a sequence which aptly recalls Charlie Chaplin's "Modern Times".
7.9/10 See "Eagle vs Shark", "Ghost World", "Wendy and Lucy" and "Land of Plenty".
It's not the most original film. It's self-conscious in an indie sort of way, and it depends upon some pretty big plot contrivances. It's also a bit heavy handed. At one point in the film, a character whose birthday is being celebrated gives the following speech while sitting on top of the bar: "It only takes just one person, just one person, to make you feel special, and valid, and like you belong in the world." Well, yeah, but a bit more understatement would have served the film better here and in other places as well. Still, I liked it. Maybe because I never get tired of films about misfits or films that deal with alienation and the struggle to lead authentic lives and form connections with others. It is the most human theme, the only theme, really, and with respect to it, the film has it's heart in the right place.
I have become a Jenna Fischer fan, not so much for her TV shows because I haven't seen them, but for her intimate movies, like this one and "A Little Help". She grew up in the heartland, Indiana and Missouri, and exhibits that simplicity and innocence in her roles. Some see her and think that she can't really act, but she is a fine actress, the nuanced performances, with just the right expressions, and timing of her dialog.
Here she is Janice, single and working for a temp agency. Crap work. The one instance we see is her being hired for a day to stand in front of the door to an empty closet in an art museum, just to make sure no one attempts to enter the door. Add injury to insult, her temp boss tells her she has been getting unfavorable comments so she is being fired.
And further injury comes when she is being evicted for failure to pay rent, so she is forced to ask her younger sister if she can stay with them.
Meanwhile in a parallel story Chris Messina as Tim is a "performance artist", basically dresses as a Giant Mechanical Man on stilts and with blue and silver makeup and matching suit, he walks the city looking for spots to stand and entertain the public for coins and bills dropped into his open briefcase. His live-in girlfriend gets tired of this and moves out.
Naturally Janice and Tim encounter each other, at first she sees him being interviewed on TV, then sees him on the street, but they don't meet until both show up at the same time answering a zoo ad for help. Out of his makeup she doesn't recognize him, but he remembers her. When they become friends they realize that have a lot in common, they both feel a bit lost in the world and each is a bit fed up with friends and family telling them what they need to do.
Pretty Malin Åkerman is Janice's sister Jill . She fixes Janice up with long-haired Topher Grace as Doug , an author who specializes in self-help books, but in reality is a self-centered bore. Janice sees through him right away and never gets interested.
(A guilty pleasure for me was seeing Bob Odenkirk as Mark , the brother of Tim's outgoing girlfriend. I have come to enjoy him in his recurring role in "Breaking Bad" as the shady lawyer Saul Goodman.)
Anyway, this is a nice, small movie about adults who don't really know what to do with their lives but know they want something better. In the end Tim accepts what he loves to do, while Janice finds she has a knack for operations at the zoo and we leave her as she has become the habitat assistant. And pretty good at it!
Did I mention that I am a big Jenna Fischer fan?
The reviews for "The Giant Mechanical Man" are all very positive. While there were aspects of the film I really liked, I was far less positive about it, mostly because some of the writing seemed sloppy. Too often, characters in this movie seem like caricatures because they are very broad and unrealistic instead of believable. I wouldn't generally say this about the leads, Jenna Fischer and Chris Messina-- they seemed to transcend the crap characters around them, though Jenna's character could have used a bit more backbone. I think the writer intended to show these pairs of lovable losers as whole people and the 'with it' folks around them as lacking but it made the film very unrealistic and slight instead of a nice romance...which it could have been had the supporting characters (the totally one-dimensional sister and the motivational speaker) been the least bit real, non-annoying and worth seeing.
The plot centres on a street performer (Chris Messina's Tim) and his struggles to fit in with the expectations of society at large, as well as to make ends meet. His lack of desire to take part in conventional culture defines the character and leads to a variety of problems in his relationships, largely due to drastically differing views on the world from those around him. His approach to life is fairly philosophical, believing that if he can brighten even one person's day on their way to work, it will make everything worthwhile. The character works well for the most part, but can come off as a stereotypical arty type in some of his rhetoric, which some may find a little grating.
The other side of the narrative takes Jenna Fischer's Janice as its focus. She has little idea what she wants from life and has difficulty holding down the succession of menial jobs that she takes on to pay the rent. She is the archetypal daydreamer, her head in the clouds more frequently than on solid ground. Her awkwardness in social situations does a lot to make the character likable, the urge to will her to speak up for herself overwhelming.
The balance between comedy and drama in the film is judged well. There's adequate humour to raise a smile on more than one occasion and the drama plays very successfully for the most part. However, the scenes intended to be the most intense sometimes don't work quite as well as they should, leaving some of the more pivotal moments feeling a little flat. The movie's charm does a lot to make up for this, but there are points at which it is slightly overcooked and what atmosphere there was is crushed under the weight of borderline sickly sweetness.
The biggest problem here lies in the slightly ridiculous coincidences that lead to the two protagonists getting to know each other. The aim may perhaps have been to demonstrate how predestined to be together they really are, but there's an uncomfortably artificial feel that comes along with this and it detracts more than a little from the picture as a whole.
I found the attitude of Janice's sister, Jill, pretty annoying. It's like whoever wrote this movie doesn't acknowledge the awkward people in life. I suppose that might be realistic to some, but I don't find it realistic at all.
If you have a stack of movies that you're waiting to watch, The Giant Mechanical Man should be somewhere near the bottom. Or something you play for background noise. Try it out if you love the actors, but otherwise, there are quirkier movies that do material like this much better.
It's been so long since I watched a new story like this one in the movie, it makes you feel calm and happy.
The characters and the lines are so sweet and simple.
the characters are simple but they're not actually simple, they're complicated people no one gets them, and they're okay with that.
I'm so glad i got to see this movie. Love it. It's a sweet and a feel good movie. Very romantic. Love it. It's a sweet and a feel good movie. Very romantic. Love it. It's a sweet and a feel good movie. Very romantic.
Chris Messina's character was about self expression and helping others connect and reflect in gentle ways, and Topher Grace's character, while less noble, was an interesting contrast in also having an influence in others but in a notorious way. Chris Messina was adorable as an artistic type, one of the good guys, trying to fit into a materialistc world, Topher Grace nailed the narcissistic perfectly, and Malick Ackerman played the quintessential well meaning sister whom doesn't really see the main character (her big sister) but tries to fix her "failings", which were really just a lack of superficial culture acceptance. A great scene that shows this is the day Jenna Fisher's character is evicted from her apartment and moving into her sister's spare bedroom in a nice house, feeling like a failure, and Malina's character is following her around drinking a store bought coffee, reading about celebrity breakups on her phone. Another great scene is where the two main characters have just made love and they are agreeing they are okay about getting serious about each other, with all the careful vulnerability of two people who have been hurt but really see and accept each other- very sweet and satisfying, and a moment of genuine success for them we get to witness. Really enjoyed and would definitely recommend.
7 out of 10.
For a rom-com, there isn't much comedy. It's a rather easy flowing low energy love story. Topher Grace tries desperately to be crazy funny with an over the top egotistical performance, but all I get from him is annoyance. This is an underwritten rom-com. The saving grace is that both Chris Messina and Jenna Fischer are lovely people. They keep me hook with their charm.
It's an offbeat romance not unlike Once or 500 Days of Summer and if you liked either of those films the chances are you will like this. With any small film like this it relies on the actors to breathe life into the story. Both the leads are impressively charming and have a great chemistry.
The writing is sharp and well observed with plenty of funny moments to go along with the spot on romance part. OK it may be slightly predictable but to be honest it wouldn't have worked being any other way.
If you want to watch a film that will leave you with a big smile on your face then this is a must. One of the classiest and best romantic comedies I've seen.
This is a film that deserves a much wider audience. Impressive.