The Giant Mechanical
In something of a reactionary response to the colorfully quirky ode to the indelible midwestern misfit that has so saturated the American festival scene in the last decade, a new trend has emerged: the drably quirky ode to the indelible city-dwelling misfit. The overriding theme of listless, white twenty/thirty-somethings finding themselves amidst the constant, deafening hum of conformity remains, but the artistic choice is not to celebrate the individual, nor indulgently revel in their individualism. This is the harsh, dehumanizing concrete jungle after all, and there is moping to be done!
First time writer/director Lee Kirk, who off-camera managed to woo star Jenna Fischer while writing this for her (aww!), somewhat manages to spectacularly oversimplify post-recession unemployment angst while still invoking enough easy chemistry from his two leads and their tentative courtship to garner sufficient audience attention. Fischer is Janice, a deeply unfulfilled frump serially fired from temp jobs due to unspecified inadequacy. Chris Messina is Tim, a broke performance artist whose signature turns as the eponymous silver-painted street mime captivate Janice from afar.
From the word go there is never any doubt, of course, that these two are destined to be together. First, though, indie convention requires that Tim’s girlfriend (Lucy Punch) chastise him and move out of their ridiculous loft (rent stabilized we’re told), having finally lost patience with his starving artist routine. Then we must suffer through Janice’s meddling sister’s (Malin Akerman) blinkered attempts to fix her life, primarily by way of setting her up with a self-absorbed, self-help guru and author, Doug Duncan (Topher Grace).
Having both Janice and Tim take menial jobs at the local zoo where they meet incidentally is a nice touch and at the very least acknowledges the reality that in order to live free you still need to live, which so many indies just seemingly ignore. He recognizes her, and she, having never seen him minus the make-up doesn’t recognize him. While the whole affair is perfectly charming, what is lacking is any real sense that Janice has a genuine dilemma on her hands between which path in life to take? As the insufferable Doug, the woefully miscast Grace is just such a smarmy, pompous cretin, and Ackerman such a blindly meddling snoot that the only thing remotely up in the air is when exactly Janice will summon the will to scream at them both to go screw themselves? About eighty minutes after the average audience member is our guess.
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