Hollywood Love Stories Vs. The Giant Mechanical Man

540829_173463022775113_136854069769342_264930_1391312080_nLast night I watched The Giant Mechanical Man, the Lee Kirk film starring The Office’s Jenna Fischer.  The movie itself is a simple, understated study in the process of falling in love.

Hollywood has actually always been pretty bad at examining what it means to fall in love.  This is a little counter-intuitive when you think about it, because Hollywood crams love stories into every conceivable plotline it cranks out, even when doing so is patently ridiculous.[1]  Even Hollywood’s actual love stories ignore the process of falling in love over more narrative-driven and time-honored cliché of overcoming obstacles:

Maybe the characters are from different sides of the tracks and must overcome some kind of social prejudice, or maybe they start off as fierce competitors who hate one another, or maybe one of them is already engaged to someone who’s successful and attractive but not their soul-mate.  Hollywood doesn’t care so much what the obstacle is so much as there is one.  And while this might make for a nice story (or, more often, a really, really terrible one) the truth is falling in love isn’t the process of conquering obstacles, it’s a very human act that is paradoxically both commonly banal and transcendently profound.

That The Giant Mechanical Man eschews obstacles and focuses instead on witnessing the intimate connection between two people unfold over a short period of time is its strength.  All of the common tropes employed by Hollywood are thankfully left behind.  There is no “will they or won’t they” romantic tension; there is no villain conspiring to keep them apart.  No stars must be crossed in order to trigger their growing interest and attraction.

Even the lead characters, played by Fischer and Chris Messina, aren’t sold as extraordinary people.  When they meet, they’re each struggling to find a place in the world.  Fischer’s character has recently been let go from a mind-numbingly unchallenging temp job.  Messina is a street performer who’s coming to the sad realization that not only won’t he ever be successful at his chosen art form, he’s failing at getting those who do bother to pay attention to understand what he’s trying to say.  Wisely, the film doesn’t demand they find success in their careers in order to find one another.  The other parts of their life are treated simply as that: other parts of their life.

That being said, The Giant Mechanical Man is quite far from a perfect movie.  Kirk relies a little too heavily on coincidence to move the story along, and his supporting characters are far more cardboard than the leads.  (Though Topher Grace is nonetheless outstanding in his two dimensions.)  Still, Kirk succeeds in giving a glimpse as to what Hollywood might accomplish by focusing less on what writers think audiences want to hear about love, and more on what writers might have to actually say on the subject.  I recommend it highly for this reason.

The_Giant_Mech_720p_2_largeThe Giant Mechanical Man is available now on Netflix’s Watch Instantly, and on YouTube here.

[1] It’s not enough that the snowboard champion who looks like a male model but is in fact a covert CIA counter-intelligence officer has to disarm the nuclear warhead that terrorists have planted inside the cake at the President’s daughter’s wedding – he also has to fall in love with the plucky bridesmaid.
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3 thoughts on “Hollywood Love Stories Vs. The Giant Mechanical Man

  1. I would just like to say that any post that takes the time to denigrate “Maid in Manhattan,” even obliquely, deserves whatever the Internet has by way of thunderous applause.

    Also “Little Black Book,” which I saw for free at an advance screening and still felt like I’d overpaid.

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  2. “(Though Topher Grace is nonetheless outstanding in his two dimensions.)”

    This is the perfect tagline for Mr. Grace. (and better than the one I was going with “when you need a Go To guy but can’t afford Tobey Maguire”). Grace is going to be a great character actor when he’s 50.

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