Manny Lewis is a comedian who can connect with millions of fans, yet struggles to connect with anyone else to create a meaningful relationship. From the mind of stand up comic Carl Barron, Manny Lewis is a look into the mind of the Australian comedian and how he manages to find love in today’s day and age. It’s a simple film, but it’s a film with heart and two great central performances by Carl Barron and Leeanna Walsman.
The story within Manny Lewis isn’t anything revolutionary – Lewis is a comedian who is depressed and struggles to connect with people in life. The one person he does happen to connect with though is a sex phone operator. A relationship spawns when he meets a girl at a cafe, and as is the case with these sorts of films, she turns out to be the phone operator. After each date, he confides in the phone operator about his problems, and how he feels the relationship is progressing.
Whilst I’ve never been a huge fan of Carl Barron’s stand up comedy, I did find that the way he implements the sardonic self deprecating humour here is great. Australian humour is a hard thing to display in films as often it comes across as mean spirited or just plain nasty. Here, thanks to Barron’s self assured performance as the titular character, it helps serve the story and build his character. When he’s on stage lamenting about the troubles of his life, it is amusing, but since it’s told in such a way that the character never becomes the butt of his own jokes, it then becomes quite heartfelt.
Unfortunately, the film is fairly formulaic with the way the story is told. Plot points are obviously telegraphed to the point of frustration at times – when Walsman’s Maria mentions a boat journey to Brazil, you just know how the film is going to end – and others are seemingly dropped for extended periods of time (Manny’s contract with a US manager is brought up at the beginning and then only brought in for the climax when it’s required). Whilst it doesn’t really challenge the viewer with new and exciting plot points, it does at least deliver interesting performances from Barron and Walsman who have great chemistry on screen together.
At its core, Manny Lewis touches on the life of a stand up comedian greatly. Whilst we have seen the role of the ‘sad clown’ portrayed many times over, this is a nice Australian take on that theme and Barron delivers the role just fine. Roy Billing makes an appearance as Lewis’ father, and it’s here that I wish the film spent a little more time exploring that relationship. Whilst the core romance is fine, the predictability of it can be a little tiring. However, the relationship of Lewis and his father is something that is interesting and (for me at least) was the core emotional throughline of the film. One scene in particular where they sit down to watch a movie together is sadly comedic.
There’s no doubt that this is Carl Barron’s idea through and through, and whether this is pulled from real life or not, he’s acted in and co-written a fine film that whilst it may not be the most unique film out there, it is filled with interesting characters that help build an enjoyable enough film. I sure do hope that this isn’t the last that we get to see of Barron in a film as he has a great screen presence.
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