Man About Town (2006) / Comedy-Drama
MPAA Rated:R for language, some sexual content, and a scene of violence
Running Time: 96 min.
Cast: Ben Affleck, Rebecca Romijn, Bai Ling, Mike Binder, John Cleese, Jerry O'Connell, Gina Gershon, Kal Penn, Adam Goldberg, Howard Hesseman, Amber Valletta, Damien Wayans
Director: Mike Binder
Screenplay: Mike Binder
Writer-director Mike Binder's previous film, The Upside of Anger, was one of the 2005's best, with enough funny and profound moments to think he might very well emerge as one of Hollywood's top comedic forces in film for some time to come. Unfortunately, his follow-up, Man About Town, lacks nearly everything that made Upside a success. With an uninteresting premise, spotty acting, and an uneven tone, there's an overwhelming sense of inertia to the film that never really allows it to approach the level of substance that Binder clearly feels is in there.
Ben Affleck (Surviving Christmas, Jersey Girl) stars as once-successful talent agent Jack Giamoro, who has been in a slump of late, not only in landing lucrative clients, but also in keeping things on the up-and-up in his stale marriage to his former supermodel wife, Nina (Romijn, The Punisher). To break himself out of his rut, Jack decides to try to express himself creatively by taking a journal writing course, where he is required to write daily thoughts and secrets in order to get to the bottom of just who he really is and what he really wants.
After a half-assed effort, Jack finally starts to hit a personal stride in his notes, until his wife drops the bomb on him about a fling she has had with one of the agency's top clients (Goldberg, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days). This and other juicy tidbits find their way into the journal, but it proves more of a hindrance than help when the journal is stolen by a reporter and struggling screenwriter (Bai Ling, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow) that has been P.O.'d that Jack has refused to answer calls or acknowledge the screenplays sent in. Now it's up to Jack to deal with marriage issues, an agency falling apart, and keeping the intimate details of his personal and professional business from hitting the local papers.
For a film about a talent agency, Man About Town is a surprising waste of talent, not only for Binder, but for most of this likeable cast as well. Not that the film is a total waste, however, as Binder does manage to strike a resonant chord now and again with some insights, but they aren't really stringed together in a strong enough fashion to overcome the substantive flaws. The reporter stealing Jack's journal plot is a pointless way to get Jack to face the real issues of his life, and if anything, it serves mostly to confuse the themes as to what the film is really all about.
Perhaps if Binder had tried to stick to an "empty suit" agent finally coming to terms with dealing with what's really inside him, without all of the obvious gags and dumb thriller elements, Man About Town would have had the chance to be as erudite as Binder tries to deliver during the more serious moments. Alas, Binder tries to tread the line between philosophy and farce, satire and slapstick, and with so many contrasting story devices, the imbalance of mood finally does the film in as a potentially intelligent piece of entertainment.
©2006 Vince Leo