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“The Giant Mechanical Man” Netflix Review

giant mechanical man

Chris Messina and Jenna Fischer star in this romantic comedy about two lost souls

Janice (Jenna Fischer) and Tim (Chris Messina) are 30-something year olds who are in a metaphorical rut in their lives, and don’t know how to get out of it. Sound familiar to anyone? Yeah, if  you’re anything even remotely like me or 88% of the people I know, that is a spot on self-description (the age thing, of course, is hit or miss).

I started watching this movie mainly because it was there – I saw it on my “Recommended For You” section of Netflix (which I share with like 6 other people by the way, so a lot of the recommendations are wonky and eclectic), recognized the actors, and thought, “oh, what the hell.” I’m not disappointed with my choice – though not a particularly amazing or even thought-provoking film, I did enjoy watching it.

Janice is, to me, way more endearing than her love interest Tim – which is ironic since her personality is billed by an employer as “aimless, disinterested, and unpersonable.” She gets fired from her temp job because her head is always in the clouds, her landlord has to get on her about her rent being late all the time (he feels really bad about having to yell at her though, it’s kind of adorable), and she just feels lost and purposeless and alone.

(You have no idea how much I’m identifying with this chick right now. Honestly, it’s like looking at a prettier white girl version of myself in ten years. This is terrifying.)

Tim, on the other hand, comes across as mildly less sympathetic at first. He’s a semi-failed street performer, and his act is called The Giant Mechanical Man. He paints his face and dresses like a metal human, stands on street corners like a statue, and does little robot dances whenever someone gives him money.

Apparently, it’s supposed to signify the tired soul of a corporate robot being forced to go through the motions of what is considered a useful, contributing member of society, all the while feeling empty inside. (Or something like that, I kind of zoned out after the many, many times we’re hit in the face with this supposedly deep and introspective stuff).

He has a girlfriend at the beginning of the movie, but almost right off the bat they break up – and by the way, I really liked the way that it was handled. His ex isn’t characterized as an overbearing bitch the way that some romantic comedies tend to do; they just realize that over the course of their relationship they’ve grown into different people, and that it’s no longer working out.

Cue the montages of Tim and Janice wandering around the city alone to the tune of some sad indie song. When she finally sees The Giant Mechanical Man performing on the street, they stare deeply into each other’s souls from a distance. His weird dancing brings tears to her eyes, and they immediately connect and… okay, so it’s all really, really cheesy. But it’s still kind of cute.

Their first real interaction with one another starts when she finally gets kicked out of her apartment; walking along the street feeling dejected, she spots The Giant Mechanical Man, and starts talking to him about how she identifies with what he’s doing. Tim doesn’t reply to her – he’s doing his robot schtick and she doesn’t have any money to give to him to make him move – but he listens, and seems to take hope and inspiration from her.

Janice’s sister, Jill (Malin Akerman), introduces her to the one of the main physical conflicts of the movie: a man named Doug Duncan (Topher Grace) who is a complete and total sleaze bag. (Seriously, I had no idea how everyone around him wasn’t constantly on the verge of slamming his face into a table, let alone fawning over him and buying his shitty self help books.) However, he is considered the ‘right’ match for Janice by her sister, who is weirdly enthusiastic about them dating.

Honestly, the conflict with Doug was a little tired and boring, mostly because every time he was on screen I couldn’t stop myself from rolling my eyes. The standout relationship here, besides the main romantic one, is between Janice and Jill. Janice was adopted before Jill was born, so she’s supposed to be the older sister figure of the pair of them, but from the beginning of the movie she’s shown as always standing meekly in the shadow of her more confident, put-together little sis. Jill’s constant pushiness actually never came across as annoying to me, but more so as a necessary buildup for the obligatory confrontation towards the end of the movie.

Tim’s also at his best when he’s spending time with Janice, because he lets go of his stoic exterior and is able to really connect with someone who ‘gets’ him; my favorite scenes are when they’re hanging out together and laughing.

This movie has a lot of introspective zoom-in shots of Tim and Janice sitting alone and musing about life, especially in the beginning. As you would expect, it’s set to sad strumming guitar music and the whole thing got a little old. The plot is also pretty predictable, and the themes aren’t anything new and interesting the way I feel like it’s sometimes trying to be. Overall, though, it did have some good moments. It’s a cute movie to watch on a rainy day when you’re looking for something uplifting.

3-stars-out-of-5

  • Starring: Jenna Fischer, Chris Messina
  • Directed by: Lee Kirk
  • Running Time: 94 minutes
  • Genre: Romantic Comedy