2014 / Director. Anthony Mir.
Review by Glenn Cochrane.
When Australian stand-up comedians make the leap to the big screen they usually land flat on their arses. Few have made the transition gracefully and we are left with a legacy of ocker idiotic and stodgy comedies that fester in a marsh of movies best left forgotten. Carl Barron is a stand-up comedian whose comedy is typically ocker, and the notion of him leading a feature length film definitely conjures reluctance... the film is MANNY LEWIS. It is a romantic comedy that follows a painfully contrived formula with a storyline that you'd find in any comedy section at any video store (or streaming service. hehe). The beauty of the film, however, is how understated it plays out and how casual it all feels. Carl Barron plays a fictitious version of himself. He's a famous comedian with a legion of fans (many dimwitted) who adore him. On stage he's a legend but in reality he's miserable. When he finds himself with a few months off from touring he gets caught in a sad and lonely state on the verge of depression. In a moment of weakness is calls a fantasy hotline and forms a bond with the girl on the other end. He also meets a woman in a cafe and begins a casual relationship with her. Things are looking up for Manny, aside from the fact that both women are the same person - cue the formulaic narrative. If it wasn't for the film's charm and modesty I would have fallen asleep, but Carl Barron delivers a sincere and candid performance, which feels as though he is baring his soul for the world to see. His commentary on the life of a high profile comedian is personal and an obvious reflection of his own. It's these insights and observations that break past the film's laborious structure and offer something unique and unexpectedly heartwarming. It's not a film looking for accolades and it casually glides under most radars. The fact that it hit screens so discretely and will arrive on home entertainment the same way makes it a real sleeper. I can see it gathering an audience over time and perhaps that's also part of its charm. In the end it won me over.