Famous stand-up comedian Manny Lewis (Carl Barron) is at the height of his popularity and at the depth of his loneliness. He connects with millions of fans but finds it hard to connect to any one person. Manny struggles to overcome his sense of alienation and shyness, and a difficult relationship with his father. Then he meets Maria (Leeanna Walsman), who is a sex worker on a fantasy hotline.
Review by Louise Keller:
I like the concept - a successful comedian who can't relate to anyone beyond his audience - but somehow this well-meaning comedy starring Aussie comedian Carl Barron fails to ignite. The premise is too slight; the script (by Barron and director Anthony Mir) plods and although Barron clearly has a substantial following, his wry, observational humour and appeal only translate minimally onto the big screen. Father son relationship plus a complicated boy meets girl scenario are the film's mainstays, while a live concert is the structure that holds everything together.
Comedy is the hardest genre and there is little opportunity here to warm to Barron's talents as he coats every day occurrences with his brand of humour and unique perspective. When the film begins, we quickly observe that once off-stage Manny finds it difficult to communicate on any level. Small talk is impossible and he seems to be too caught up in his own sense of self to relate to anyone else - especially a girl. He is lonely.
The pivotal scene takes place at 3am, when Manny rings a Fantasy Hotline, starting a conversation with a husky-voiced sex worker who gives a pseudonym. They connect on some level. The fact that Manny meets and connects with her when they meet in a coffee shop, when neither knows the other's identity, is the start of the film's main plot strand, in which an amusing duplicitous relationship develops. Leeanna Walsman is delightful as Maria, bringing a vulnerable, gentle femininity to the mix. I like the way Manny calls Fantasy Hotline after his dates, to report on the progress of his developing relationship. Maria listens intently, taking any criticism to heart.
Other relationships include that between Manny and his agent Jimmy (Damien Garvey), who is brokering a deal with an American network and the all-important one with his formerly abusive father Lyle (Roy Billing), whose approval Manny desperately seeks. There is not enough pathos in the father son relationship, although it resonates when Manny finally gets an opportunity to perform in front of his father, does resonate. And look out for the payoff to Manny's joke routine explaining the reason for his fear of water.
The Sydney locations look stunning through cinematographer Carl Robertson's lens: the shots of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour at night are especially beautiful. But the weight of the film's burden falls squarely on Barron's shoulders and somehow there just isn't enough to maintain our interest.
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MANNY LEWIS (M)
CAST: Carl Barron, Leeanna Walsman, Roy Billing, Damien Garvey
PRODUCER: Martin Fabinyi
DIRECTOR: Anthony Mir
SCRIPT: Carl Barron, Anthony Mir
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Carl Robertson
EDITOR: Roland Gallois
MUSIC: John Gray
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David McKay
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Studio Canal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 12, 2015