Neither the next sci-fi blockbuster nor an ad for the latest trendy toy, The Giant Mechanical Man may be an unfortunate mouthful of a movie name. But this newest addition to economic hard times romantic comedy, is a small indie gem that like its title, is a bountiful, bittersweet offering of delicately crafted imagination and ideas.
The Giant Mechanical Man in question is Tim (Chris Messina), an everyman mime on stilts who does his mute, melancholy thing around downtown Chicago streets daily, for the spare change of pedestrians that doesn’t exactly pay his bills. And while faring no better back home, with an ambitious, disgusted girlfriend (Lucy Punch) more into making it in the art world, and about to dump him for a new life.
At the same time in another part of town, Janice (Jenna Fischer), insecure, terminally hopeless and intermittently unemployed, can’t seem to hold on to even bottom feeder jobs. Forced to give up her apartment because she can’t pay the rent, Janice is condemned to living with her nagging, overbearing sister Jill (Malin Akerman). A bleak situation compounded by the powerless, financially destitute and emotionally lost Janice having been adopted into Jill’s family as a child.
And in the course of dashing between dead end jobs on a daily basis, Janice stops to tell her troubles to Tim’s living statue whenever she encounters him on the street. Which mystify as exquisitely touching and tragic moments in the movie, even if Janice’s pockets are entirely too empty to thank her silent comforter with a contribution.
Eventually both end up seeking work at the local zoo, where they bond in mutual despair laced with lapses into heartfelt, offbeat humor. And where Tim is hired to clean toilets, referring to himself as ‘the miserable human being exhibit.’ And Janice is stuck at an outdoor concession post hawking fake grape juice in a funny hat. A gig that is ‘hopefully temporary until I figure out my life.’
But conspiring to run interference between these strangely simpatico lovers, is sister Jill. Who is pressuring Janice into dating an obnoxious, egotistical self-help guru (Topher Grace). Even as Janice is stubbornly drawn to her radically weird object of desire, statuesque sidewalk beggar Tim. Declaring in a tearful street soliloquy below that ‘You’re real, you’re genuine – not like all the other people walking around like they have it all figured out.’
Writer/Director Lee Kirk, much like his indecisive characters, does lose his way in nurturing the story to a satisfying conclusion worthy of everything immensely engaging that came before. Settling for the usual conventional genre resolutions instead.
Trailer of The Mechanical Man: