Sunday, November 11, 2012

"The Giant Mechanical Man" from Tribeca: basic humanity

Tribeca does release a few of its favored films as DVD’s and instant plays (as to Netflix or YouTube rental). Director Lee Kirk says that the concept for “The Giant Mechanical Man” came to him just wondering about what street performers (for tips) were like as real individual people.  Then he would have to create another character for the performer to relate to, and what would that person be like?
Producer Jenna Fisher came up with Janice, a thirty year old who is drifting, unable to hold down a job even as a temp.  In fact, early on, she’s told about complaints from clients, that “she’s in the clouds” and disinterested in the job (which can be pretty menial).  She finds another menial job selling concessions at the zoo, where she meets Tim (Chris Messina), who does janitorial duties.  She doesn’t know, as their relationship grows, that he’s a street performer (painted in gunmetal and on stilts), and that revelation provides the denouement of the story.
In the meantime, Janice, having been evicted, leans on her younger sister (Malin Akerman)  for a place to live, and soon finds the sister pushing her into a relationship with the charismatic motivational speaker Doug (Topher Grace).  Now Doug “is an author” – except that I’ve always seen “authors” as either (or both) novelists or journalists (maybe poets), not the sort to sell the idea “I can fix your life” in books.  Really, I can’t fix what’s wrong with your life as a blogger.  No one can.  But that doesn’t stop some people from getting rich this way. 

I have numerous personal anecdotes that relate to all this.  In 1978, I dated a guy (briefly) who made a living playing and singing for tips at Shakespeare’s in Greenwich Village.  In the mid 1980s, in Dallas, another “boy friend” (working for a 7-11) was drawn in to a training program (even a free plane trip to a convention in Waco) selling motivational tapes.  We all remember those “Dress for Success” books from the 80s.  And in 1981, while on vacation and in a rent car, I heard, on the radio, about a seminar about “Feeling Good About Yourself” in Helena, Montana, and made a 150 mile bee-line in a rental car to attend it.  (I almost got caught in the spring blizzard the next morning.)

Tribeca’s site is here

The film was shot in Detroit, and the aging urban surroundings are quite effective.  They do look a little bit like New York, but grungier and colder.  

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