The Giant Mechanical Man

A ★ ★ ★ ★

Janice (Jenna Fischer) and Tim (Chris Messina) dressed as “The Giant Mechanical Man” sharing a heart-felt moment.

Directed by Lee Kirk
Story by Lee Kirk & Jenna Fischer* (uncredited)
Screenplay by Lee Kirk

Cast: Jenna Fisher: Janice Chris Messina: Tim Topher Grace: Doug Malin Akerman: Jill Rich Sommer: Brian
Lucy Punch: Pauline Sarab Kamoo: Sonia Bob Odenkirk: Mark

 

This is a fantastically quirky comedy. The movie, which was shot entirely in 19 days in Detroit MI for under a million dollars, was written by Lee Kirk after Jenna Fischer hired him to write a romantic comedy for her to star in. However, thanks to Fischer’s great discion to hire Kirk, for whom she would later marry, they ended up with a very high quality product, both in writing and as a film overall.

The story follows Janice (Fischer) as a lost soul who is – after a series of unfortunate events – forced to move in with her half-sister, Jill (Malin Akerman) and her boyfriend/husband, Brian (Rich Sommer). Jill and Brian then take it upon themselves to hook Janice up with their most qualified single friend, Doug Duncan (Topher Grace), who is practically a caricature of the pseudo-intellectuals seen in a Woody Allen film, only ten times worse. She is then forced to take a job at the zoo selling fake grape juice in gorilla shaped bottles to children for an exhorbant amount of money (“You’re overqualified but if you’re desperate, I can give you that.” “I am desperate.”)

Meanwhile, Tim (Chris Messina) plays a performance artist who dresses up like a robot and stands on street corners to earn his money. Then, after his girlfriend, Pauline (Lucy Punch), leaves him, he decides to go on the air and do an interview on television as his character, The Giant Mechanical Man, in which he makes some startlingly profound remarks that are mocked by the news team. Janice however, sees these remarks from the anonymous mechanical man and finds them to be incredibly inspirational. However, after Pauline moves out, he is forced to take a job in Sanitation at the same zoo. There, Janice and Tim fall in love but she doesn’t know that he is the mechanical man. So, when the mechanical man sees her with Doug on a very much forced date, their relationship begins to crumble in an offbeat sort of way.

Fischer is phenomenal in her role, though the film was written as a vehicle for her. Messina is also very good though his role as Tim was fairly straightforward. The interesting thing about his performance was the fantastic job he did as the mechanical man himself. Malin Akerman did nothing wrong and neither did Lucy Punch or Bob Odenkirk, for that matter; yet, I can’t say they did a great job because they didn’t. They played it very, vey simply and that was good for the movie as a whole. However, in addition to the film’s star, uncredited story creator, and producer, Jenna Fischer, the real stand out was Topher Grace as Doug Duncan. Despite how much I absolutely despise his character, he made me laugh everytime he went on screen and the mere mentioning of his name in the movie made us cringe. Of course, writer-director Lee Kirk gets some of that credit, but still…Grace did a fantastic job as the writer of “Winning Conversations,” a self-help book where he says, “When you don’t know what to say, talk about yourself,” and, “[Three quarter’s of the way through dinner] tell a story…even if its not true…all that maters is that you get to overtime which means…’touchdown!’” Also, Rich Sommer was a very reliable source dor quic, comedic relief.

Overall though, the writing by Lee Kirk and excellent performances by Topher Grace and Kirk’s wife, Jenna Fischer will make this film standout amongst other indie rom-coms this year.

Oscar Hopes:

Dark horse:

Best Original Screenplay: Lee Kirk

Longshots:

Best Actress in a Leading Role: Jenna Fischer

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Topher Grace

Best Director: Lee Kirk

Best Film Editing: Robert Komatsu

Best Make-up: Bree Shea and Elizabeth Cortez

Extreme Longshots:

Best Actor in a Leading Role: Chris Messina

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Malin Akerman

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Lucy Punch

Best Original Score: Rich Ragsdale

Incredibly Extreme Longshots:

Best Picture: Jenna Fischer, Molly Hassell, Bret Steifel

Best Actor in a Supporting Role: Rich Sommer

Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Sarab Kamoo

Best Cinematography: Doug Emmett

*Jenna Fischer did not receive credit for co-writing the story, nor will she accept it. I have based the decision to include that because of an exclusive Q&A with Lee Kirk & Jenna Fischer at the Traverse City Film Festival.

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