Dressing up in stilts, silver face paint and a bowler hat isn’t helping the male lead in “The Giant Mechanical Man” woo the ladies.
Chris Messina’s character is dedicated to his street art all the same, even at the expense of a traditionally acceptable career path – and love life.
“The Giant Mechanical Man” sounds like an intellectually compromised project, a goofy spin on modern romance given a shiny, metallic face. It’s really about people who can’t abide by the 9-to-5 world and want to carve out their own life niche.
Messina, a hard-working actor yet to receive his due, plays the aforementioned mime. Messina’s Tim refuses to live The Man’s lifestyle, so he spends his days slathering on silver face paint for spare change. That sends his beautiful girlfriend (Lucy Punch) fleeing, forcing him to find a “real” job cleaning up at the local zoo.
That’s where Tim meets Janice (“The Office’s” Jenna Fischer), a beautiful misfit who couldn’t even maintain a gig with a temp agency.
Will true, albeit awkward, love bloom? Or will Janice pick a shallow self-help guru (Topher Grace) who wants to add her to his list of P.R. success stories?
“Mechanical Man” belies its gimmicky premise – to a point. Messina and Fischer flash the kind of reticent chemistry we demand in a match between misfits. First time writer/director Lee Kirk refuses to rush their courtship or throw an ungainly number of faux obstacles in their way.
Kirk fumbles whenever the film’s supporting players enter the frame.
First, he gives the talented Punch too little to do as Tim’s ex-girlfriend. That’s a minor quibble when the story invites Grace into the mix. He’s an unctuous author, the kind of sap you avoid even if he were flashing two tickets to the hottest show in town. Grace’s forced mannerisms would be out of place in a slapstick farce, let alone a gentle indie with its heart on its tin sleeve.
Even Janice’s sister (Malin Akerman) isn’t given a credible treatment, forcing us to watch the sisters interact in ways that hardly nudge the main story along.
“The Giant Mechanical Man” remains a bracing tonic for those allergic to modern rom-coms, a reminder that love is not only blind but often oblivious to social mores.
The DVD includes an interview with both Kirk and Fischer reminiscing about a mostly engaging “Mechanical Man.”