MAN ABOUT TOWN
Los Angeles talent agent, Jack Giamoro (Ben Affleck), seems to have it all: a successful career, money, and a beautiful wife, Nina (Rebecca Romijn). But he still feels something is missing, so he takes a journal writing class to explore his feelings, taught by the eccentric Englishman, Mr. Primkin (John Cleese). Writing the journal makes Jack re-evaluate his life, and opens the floodgates to his memories. But when Jack learns that his wife is cheating on him with his most important client, Phil Balow (Adam Goldberg), his perfect life really starts to unravel. Things get even worse when Jack's journal, which contains secrets that could ruin him both personally and professionally, is stolen by rebuffed wanna be writer and ambitious freelance journalist, Barbi Ling (Bai Ling) and his partners in the agency like Morty (Mike Binder) and Arlene (Gina Gershon) stand to be embarrassed - and worse still, lose business.
Review by Louise Keller:
The themes of Man About Town dig deeper than its storyline suggests. It's about a successful self-made man with a designer life and designer wife who scratches underneath the surface to find the meaning of life. Of HIS life. Like writer director Mike Binder's previous film, The Upside of Anger, there is bite in this comedy as it looks at relationships, inner-demons and resolutions. Emotional pathos is shaken into a cocktail with a nip of outlandish ideas, some of which are more potent than others. But potency aside, the final mix is not as compelling as its ingredients.
In a role that might have been tailor-made for him, Ben Affleck fits the mould of LA talent agent Jack Giamoro who makes more effort on his abdomen than he does on his relationship with his wife Nina (Rebecca Romijn). John Cleese instantly made me smile as the aptly-named, supercilious Mr Primkin. His journal-writing motivation classes prompt Jack to pen his secrets - his days as a fat kid, his bitter rivalry with his brother and business ethics as he climbs the ladder of success. But as soon as he bares his soul into his journal, he finds himself confronted by new problems, as the precious book is stolen.
Bai Ling is a scene stealer as the journalist with the teensy mini skirt, who hungers for her story at any cost. The climactic scene involving a cat fight, an unwelcome visitor and a re-enactment of Basic Instinct's interrogation scene by a wanna-be actress is not as hilarious as the set up promises. Binder is more successful at creating textures and layers in Jack's office and home. The scenes involving Jack's stroke-ridden father (Howard Hesseman) and the oversized fish tank are among the film's funniest as well as the most poignant.
There is nothing comfortable about Jack's journey of self discovery. It's bumpy all the way. Jack faces infidelity, humiliation and business ruin. Occasionally played for laughs, but grounded in the mire of life's harsh reality, Man About Town has its moments, but is less than a memorable ride uptown.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Satire with several targets is a marvellous way to entertain a savvy audience, and recent films like Thank You For Smoking show it can be done with great impact and flair. Mike Binder is a talented writer but unlike Jason Reitman with TYFS, he hasn't wrangled the tone to best effect. Indeed, he has been swamped by several tones, which make the end result seem like a lumpy trifle whose cherries and custard and cake and wine - all great ingredients by themselves - refuse to gel into a wild and breezy taste sensation.
Where Binder finds fodder for his satire is Hollywood, in a talent agency whose shallow venality hides a shallow amorality; this cliché need not necessarily hinder the workings of the film, but Binder makes heavy weather of it. Still, Ben Affleck turns in good work as the pawn in Binder's game of moral chess, an agent whose reassessment of his life is forced on him by fate. The makings of a tragedy - excellent grounding for comedy - are dissipated when audience loyalties are torn between him and a morally repulsive, self serving gadget in the form of freelance journalist, Barbi Ling (Bai Ling), who threatens to expose his secrets after stealing his journal. This part of the film unsuccessfully mixes farce with drama, comedy with morality tale - and is often rather silly in its details.
The other characters - Jack's business partners - seem like a misguided Greek chorus whose function is to hear exposition and ping pong some plot progression; but it's hazy at best, so it's the performances alone that rescue the film in the hands of these great actors.
Jerry O'Connell as a writer desperately sought by Jack for his stable delivers the film's standout performance, and his scene with his wife Bryn (Amber Valetta) auditioning for the agents in the Sharon Stone role from Basic Instinct's infamous interrogation scene is great fun - although it does wimp out with a sleight of hand trick.
The film drags a bit, but it does offer entertainment for anyone in an easy to please mood.
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MAN ABOUT TOWN (M)
CAST: Ben Affleck, Scott London, Rebecca Romijn, Mike Binder, Gina Gershon, Kal Penn, Adam Goldberg Jerry O'Connell, Amber Valetta, John Cleese, Lai Bing, Damian Wayans
PRODUCER: Jack Binder, Sammy Lee, Michael Rotenberg
DIRECTOR: Mike Binder
SCRIPT: Mike Binder
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Russ T. Alsobrook
EDITOR: Roger Nygard
MUSIC: Larry Groupe
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Christian Wintter
RUNNING TIME: 98 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hoyts
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 31, 2006
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.