The Giant Mechanical Man is a pretty much completely unknown movie, and the title doesn't represent it very well if you don't know what it's about, so just bear with me on this.
|And no, this has nothing to do with transformers. It doesn't even have any literal robots.|
Jenna Fischer is, as anyone who has seen The Office will know, the perfect embodiment of an everygirl. An everyman is easy enough to find in movies, but "everygirl" apparently isn't even a word. But Jenna Fischer is one. Or at least she can play one. And so Janice is one. Janice is a 30-somthing New Yorker with an unfulfilling job, and has a hard time paying her bills, and she doesn't know what she wants out of life.
Tim is very similar to Janice in many ways, but an everyman he is not. He's a street performer. Every day he gets up, coats his face is shiny silver paint, puts on stilts and a shiny silver suit, and goes to work where he stands like a statue, and only moves as if he were a machine. But underneath that paint he is pretty much exactly the same as Janice. His job is unfulfilling -- the common-folk don't understand the artistry, and it doesn't make him much money -- and he is being pressured to move on in his life, but can't see any direction to go.
|Oh, did I mention? This is a romantic comedy.|
And with that one sentence, you have made at least one prediction that you are probably right about. But if you've gotten this far, don't give up on me yet, because if this were a typical cheesy rom-com, I wouldn't be bothering to review it.
First of all, on the comic side, there is some quality comedy. No stale, reused slap-stick here. This film is funny -- truly, laugh-out loud-funny -- because that's what it is, naturally. It couldn't not be. It's releasing and comfortable to watch, and wonderfully refreshing to see.
And then to balance the comedy, there's a surprisingly deep (and even darkish) and thoughtful side as well. Movies feature all the time characters who aren't satisfied with their regular or middling lives. And those people inevitably go out and chase their dreams and find fulfillment, and I have no problem with that. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty did that, and it was great. However, this movie presents them in a way that feels almost taboo; because in our culture it is not okay to not know what you want out of life. To not have clear dream to pursue. But Janice and Tim -- they don't. Their lives are at a crossroad, except they can't even see where the new paths start. And the film suggests that it is okay. And if you're thinking that's uncharacteristically deep for a rom-com you're absolutely right.
|Did I mention that this film is also an independent?|
That leads me perfectly into the romance, because indies have a certain quality about them that is used particularly well here; our two leads -- you know, the ordinary, unsure everypeople? -- they sound like real people too. I love the conversations they have; in a typical rom-com, you might call them "awkward," but they're not, just realistic really. So even when the film takes slight turns into the cute sappiness, it feels comparatively more real, and makes those moments all the more sweeter. And the two do make a very cute couple. The "genre" of an indie film doesn't by nature mix well with the traditional rom-com genre, but this movie finds a way to blend them and not leave anything wanting from either side.
Jenna Fischer as Janice, as I said, makes for a very relatable, everygirl kind of character. She is sweet and charming, and truly funny in a not at all obvious or abrasive kind of way. You just suddenly find yourself laughing at her -- or with her. And Chris Messina as Tim, I never noticed before I saw this film. I've seen him in several films, but didn't recognize him. At first I even figured he was an unknown cast for his talent as a mime (which is very good) but no. This makes it even more impressive how quickly he won me over. His Tim is more of a defeatist than Janice, but in his way is every bit as sweet, charming, funny, and relatable as she.
|Both give more the kind of performances you expect from an indie rather than a rom-com.|
But fine performances and small amounts of deeper meaning don't at all dampen the rom-com effect. I watched this expecting some cute and sweet romance and that's what I was satisfied with at the end. Some of it was downright adorable. Some of it was maddeningly relatable. Some was strangely illuminating. A lot was uniquely amusing, or even hilarious. All simply, neatly made. And of course, revolving around a giant mechanical man, wandering aimlessly through life, it is entirely unlike anything else.
Oh, and did I mention? The Giant Mechanical Man is available for instant streaming on Netflix...