Wed June 3, 2009
The Merry Gentleman
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
"I'd say we've been pretty good for one another," Kate (Kelly Macdonald)
Well, not quite, but that statement is consistent with na?ve young Brit Kate's cluelessness since she's talking to an accomplished assassin, Frank (Michael Keaton), whom she recently befriended and believes to be a good Samaritan. But that sense of being just a bit out of it is characteristic of Michael Keaton's first directorial effort, The Merry Gentleman, as well.
I could feel Keaton struggling to offer a thriller in the David Mamet tradition (without his caustic language) with minimalist dialogue and exposition and a concentration on character. Without Mamet's poetic language, Keaton is left with spare dialogue that barely explains the motivations for abuse and murder involving more than one character.
It is, however, mostly Kate I wanted to know, and I was not fulfilled because of her limited capacity to speak loud and clear. Caught as she is between the growing interest of Detective Dave Murcheson (Tom Bastounes) and Frank, and her abusive husband, this woman causes a great deal of trouble by just being beautiful, caring, and out there. And ignorant of her charm and the kind of rogue male she is attracted to.
Among the several motifs Keaton rams through, the idea of "good" appears regularly. Calling someone good who is not is a cheap way of doubling up on irony but doing little to expand the meaning of "bad." Most of all I am disappointed in the ending. Some closure is necessary in most fiction.
Not a bad film; just not great.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time and Cinema Classics shows, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com