Film review: MANNY LEWIS, from ‘Built For Speed’

A stand-up comedian doing a film about the life of a stand-up comedian seems very self-indulgent. That feeling is inescapable throughout the so-called romantic comedy/drama Manny Lewis.

Popular comedian Carl Barron plays the title character, a droll, cynical, self-deprecating and often unlikeable stand-up comedian whose material often seems to be based on some disturbing child hood experiences.  His off-stage life reflects his dour material as Manny is a  lovelorn sad sack who rings sex lines for some sort of companionship. During one call he encounters the seductive Caroline who becomes a kind of confidante whom he rings to unload his problems. At the same time he meets the attractive bohemian Maria who also happens to be Caroline. The question of how Manny will react when he discovers Maria’s secret forms the film’s central drama?

This is a darker film than audiences may have suspected given its star is a comedian. Much of the movie is about Manny confronting demons from his past such as his violent father.  The problem is that his Father, played by the ever affable Roy Billing, doesn’t strike us as a dysfunctional or threatening person.  Also, there just isn’t enough meat on the story for it to work as an introspective drama and character study.  It’s just Manny being miserable and (annoyingly) complaining about the attention afforded him by the fans who have given him his lucrative career.  To his credit Barron isn’t a complete fish out of water on the big screen, his performance is solid and he shows that he could transition into a broader movie career.

As a supposed romantic comedy Manny Lewis doesn’t work very well. Baron plays Manny as a grumpy and contemptible character suggesting that Maria would be better off without him. The biggest problem with this film is that Manny as a character and the script overall are not funny.  Manny’s stand-up material and his attempts at humour in everyday life are mostly hackneyed and occasionally obnoxious. He’s meant to be a troubled character but that doesn’t mean his dialogue should be devoid of wit and full of little more than simplistic bile-filled criticisms of others.

There are, however, some positives in this film.  First, the soundtrack contains The Smiths’ This Charming Man.  Second, the film features Leanna Walsman as Maria, Manny’s love interest.  Walsman has a luminous charm that almost makes the romantic material work and the film is at its best when she is on screen.

This is a disappointing film that barely qualifies as drama, comedy or romance but at least Walsman makes it tolerable.

Nick’s rating: **.

Genre: Romantic comedy/ drama.

Classification: M.

Director(s): Anthony Mir.

Release date: 12th Mar 2015.

Running time: 89 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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