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Overall Rating
1.5

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Pretty Bad50%
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2 reviews, 2 user ratings


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Man About Town
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by brianorndorf

"It's getting easier to loathe Mike Binder"
1 stars

To even suggest that Ben Affleck is responsible for the poison the spills out of "Man about Town" is just insanity. The awfulness of the film is writer/director Mike Binder's fault. He's the one who made the lunkheaded dramatic choices, the excruciating stabs at comedy, and ridiculous choice of a Hollywood agent as a psychological profile.

“Man About Town” was shot back in 2004 when Ben Affleck was at the very end of his career rope. Reeling from the unfair clobbering of “Jersey Girl,” I’m sure the actor looked over this script’s laundry list of ennui and salvation as a way to get himself back on the right track.

Jack Giamoro (Ben Affleck) is a television writer agent starting to feel the pinch of discontentment with his life. With his marriage (Rebecca Romijn) falling apart, his co-workers (Mike Binder, Kal Penn, and Gina Gershon) pushing him to swallow his problems, and his ailing father (Howard Hesseman) reminding him of life’s fragility, Jack escapes to a weekly journal writing course to help find needed perspective. Easing into a new headspace, Jack is horrified when his journal is stolen by a vindictive newspaper reporter (Bai Ling) who threatens to spill his secrets.

Writer/director Mike Binder nailed the intersection of comedy and pathos with his 2004 effort, “The Upside of Anger.” The Joan Allen/Kevin Costner film was unexpectedly funny, balanced sincerity with melodrama effectively, and tackled absorbing subjects such as grief and social displacement. “Anger” was basically everything that “Man” isn’t.

It boggles the mind to watch Binder fall from such observational highs to this piece of garbage. “Man” is a bundle of clichés, but not the interesting ones that could lead to a passable motion picture.

Here we’re given the plight of a Hollywood agent; that age-old character of moral corruption and hopelessness that turns up every month in lazy scripts. Like his contemporaries, Binder clings to the idea of an agent as the everyday man with everyday problems. Hogwash. All it really allows is for Binder to cook up inside Hollywood jokes about the industry and the talent fishing process that only the coasts will find appealing.

It doesn’t take long for “Man” to assume a “Jerry Maguire” route of self-inspection and romantic lament. Binder treats these themes robotically, using cheap tragedy and bizarre flashbacks to best investigate why Jack is losing his moral center. Because Binder clings so close to routine sights and sounds, the impact of Jack’s revelations are lost in the mix. A short list of offenses: we have the side-impact-out-of-nowhere car crash, the agent-pleading-for-a-client scene, and 70s décor straight from the stores of “Brown and Paneled.”

How dense is Binder? He uses an acoustic version of “Our Lips Are Sealed” to underscore a tender moment Jack recalls from his childhood. Because nothing says 1976 quite like an iconic song from 1981.

When all is said and done, it’s impossible to nail Affleck to the wall for this film’s lack of competence. I like the actor and I think, with elevated material, he’s capable of great things. The blame for this mess stands completely on Binder’s shoulders. After all, Affleck didn’t write an extended sequence where, after a botched dentist visit, Jack runs around the second half of the picture with gigantic buck teeth. Affleck didn’t cast Kal Penn, Mike Binder, and Adam Goldberg as the comedic relief (I think I’m gonna be sick). And Affleck wasn’t the guy staging separation sequences around a massive fish tank that appears courtesy of the “Symbolism for Dummies” directing playbook. This is all Binder, demonstrating some of the worst screenwriting and directorial lethargy I’ve seen in the last year.

Over the last year, “Man” had a dickens of a time finding a theatrical distributor, and now I can see why. Binder steps back to the plate with this spring’s “Reign Over Me,” and I can only pray that’s he’s gained some sense of restraint from the bloated corpse of the miscalculated and diseased “Man About Town.”

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=15073&reviewer=404
originally posted: 02/23/07 17:22:20
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User Comments

8/01/11 Wallace Worst movie I've ever seen. 1 stars
3/09/07 William Goss Rather inert both comedically and dramatically. Affleck tries: fails, but tries. 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  N/A (R)
  DVD: 13-Feb-2007

UK
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Australia
  31-Aug-2006




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