This week in my movie class, we saw the new romantic comedy, “The Giant Mechanical Man”, starring Jenna Fischer, Chris Messina and Topher Grace.
When two losers meet, will they allow themselves to fall in love with each other or will they let the opportunity slip through their fingers?
Life has certainly not been doing Janice (Fischer) any favors. After losing her job at the temp agency where she’s been sent on occasional assignments, she falls behind in her rent and is eventually evicted from her apartment, forcing her to move in with her younger married sister. Convinced that being in a relationship would give Janice more focus in life, the sister decides to fix her up with Doug (Grace), the thoroughly obnoxious author of a new book called, “How To Have Winning Conversation”.
Tim (Messina) is by no means faring any better. Seeing himself as something of a performance artist, he winds up losing his live-in girlfriend because she finds his lifestyle too much of an embarrassment. His sole attempt at earning money is to pose in various public places around Detroit as a giant mechanical man painted in silver, hoping people who appreciate his artistry will toss money into his open suitcase. Finding himself no longer able to afford his apartment once his girlfriend moves out, Tim secures a job as a janitor at the local zoo. By sheer happenstance, Janice also wins a position as a concessionaire at that very same zoo.
Upon meeting while on the job, Janice and Tim become fast friends and soon wind up dating, only to discover a much deeper mutual attraction for each other. Jenna quickly realizes that she’s completely wasting her time with Doug, despite the fact that he’s quite attracted to her, not to mention her sister’s urging to latch on to a man with a successful career. One thing that might cause an impediment to Janice’s relationship with Tim is that he’s kept secret that he’s Detroit’s Giant Mechanical Man, who has gained a limited amount of notoriety within the city – not to mention that he’s been noticed by Janice in her travels around town. Can Janice find the courage and self-confidence to finally stand up for herself and continue her romance with Tim or will she be forever destined to defer to the will of others just to make everyone but herself happy?
Recently, Robert De Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival has been ongoing here in New York City and “The Giant Mechanical Man” is one of the movies that had its debut there. The film has been getting quite a bit of buzz lately, so I viewed it with great anticipation. This is the first film directed by Lee Kirk (who also wrote the script) and it very much has the feel of precisely that, particularly in its almost fairy tale like screenplay. “The Giant Mechanical Man” is a cute little love story that is fraught with far too many contrivances, dramatic conceits and convenient coincidences to be able to take it seriously or to suspend your disbelief for very long.
Fischer seems to have taken her character from the hit television show “The Office” and perfected it to the point that she almost appears to be pigeonholing herself by being cast as a loser with the permanent storm cloud hovering overhead, threatening a monsoon-like downpour at nearly any moment. Viewing the film practically gives you the impression that she is comfortable in her success and as such, is in no hurry to take chances. This is a movie that is familiar, safe and unchallenging. Feel free to cuddle up with it on a rainy day if you feel you must.
After the screening, our instructor interviewed the film’s writer/director Lee Kirk and its star, Jenna Fischer. From the time that Kirk initially met Fischer to pitch the idea to her until the time the movie had its funding and casting in place to actually begin shooting, it took a total of four and a half years. In the meantime, Kirk and Fischer spent an increasing amount of time together, sparking a romance, which culminated in their marriage; not long ago, they gave birth to a baby, in addition to this film.