First Aussie Gem is Toni Collette. Bursting into our multiplexes in 1994’s exuberant ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, Toni then went international. More the under-bubbler than the out-and-out superstar, she lights up screens large and small world-wide in such fare as ‘About a Boy’, ‘Little Miss Sunshine and the recent ‘Long Way Down’. She has also brightened up tele viewing in the ‘United States of Tara’, portraying a unique range of characters.
In her latest project, ‘Lucky Them’, our Toni plays a soon-to-be-washed-up-rock-journalist-unless-she-can-bring-home-the-bacon-one-more-time Ellie Klug, writing for the once iconic rock mag ‘Stax’. The publication is struggling in the digital age and editor (Oliver Platt) suggests that hunting down presumed dead, but sighted countless times, a la Elvis, songsmith god Matthew Smith, could just save her said bacon. Of course it just had to be that the singer was one in a long line of musician bed-buddies of Ellie’s, albeit one who particularly resonated. In this outing Collette exhibits what RogerEbert.com describes as ‘…smarts, humour and world-weary cool.’ She is almost upstaged by Platt as her strung-out boss and Ryan Eggold as her twinkly I-wanna-be-that-next-muso-you-bed try-hard. But best of all there’s Thomas Hayden Church as her odd couple travelling companion on the search. If you loved this guy in ‘Sideways’, as this punter did, you’ll adore him in this. Without giving too much away in spoiler form, another of the film’s assets is the cameo from a Hollywood legend towards the end. Accompanied by an excellent soundtrack, this indie perhaps won’t trouble next year’s award season, but it retains its interest throughout with quality performances.
Aussie Gem number two has largely passed me by all these years, but to my beloved and her daughter, Ilsa, he is solid gold. They are long standing fans of stand-up comic Carl Barron. But what made this stage star think he was movie material is a bit of a mystery beyond this scribbler’s ability to comprehend. It also has been for others, judging by the lukewarm reviews ‘Manny Lewis’ has received from the critics. The plot line is trite, clichéd, reliant on unlikely coincidence and also has my pet hate device – the last minute dash to prevent the departure forever of the potential love of one’s life.
But here’s the rub. I enjoyed the thing despite its only too obvious shortcomings. Barron reportedly is the first to admit he can’t act, with that being an understatement. He comes over as a cross between Paul Kelly – who’s also had a go with underwhelming consequences – and Karl Pilkington. Barron plays it all with a ‘Tears of a Clown’ vibe. Manny is huge on the comedy circuit – Barron doesn’t stray from what is known territory – but possesses a loveless, joyless private life. He is befuddled by fame and desperate for a woman, if only he wasn’t shy and tongue-tied in the presence of beauty. For me, when he played himself on stage he raised a few laughs, but the rest of time it’s a journey of pathos. But Barron has had the nous to surround himself with some fine supporting cast members. Roy Billing, as his sad-sack father, does his usual shtick that makes him one of our most endearing thespians, with Patrick Garvey, as Manny’s mate/manager, showing he is also a dab hand at a lighter role than the usual heavies he plays. The scene stealer for my money, though, is Lewis’ fantasy sex-line confidante (Caroline)/potential love interest (Maria) – you’ll need to see the movie to figure that out. This is charmingly played by Leeanna Walsman. She is a stunner and knocks Manny’s socks off – but he stuffs it all up in typical style.
With Barron’s fan base there is hope for this movie to have some sort of success, despite it being far inferior to many other recent local offerings that have faded away without giving a whimper. I must say, apart from another couple, my lovely lady and I were the sole viewers at our showing – not a good sign, but fingers crossed. And the interesting soundtrack, including Barron warbling to his guitar, helps no-end.
For ninety-minutes or so I was pleasantly entertained by this light confection as Barron’s alter-ego tried his best to shoot himself in the foot with his Maria. As with the above title, I strongly suspect ‘Manny Lewis’ will be absent when gongs are handed out during our own awards season. Definitely worth seeing if you are a fan and I can clearly discern that the man’s laconic stage patter does have its attractions.
‘Lucky Them ‘ Official Trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2KIcYfmkQcU
‘Manny Lewis’ Official Trailer = https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7PMoUMjWUBs