Ben be­hav­ing badly

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Eguide Movies - LEIGH PAATSCH

AF­TER cre­at­ing two of the finest main­stream fea­tures ever pro­duced in Australia – The Cas­tle ( 1997) and The Dish ( 2000) – the uber- tal­ented Work­ing Dog team con­spic­u­ously sat out the first decade of the new film­mak­ing mil­len­nium.

Now they have re­turned with a new ro­man­tic com­edy, Any Ques­tions for Ben?

As much as I hate to say it as an un­equiv­o­cal fan of the Work­ing Dog ef­fect, the re­turn is not quite the cause for cel­e­bra­tion many will have hoped.

The first thing that strikes you about Any Ques­tions for Ben? is its ag­gres­sive pur­suit of an ur­bane, so­phis­ti­cated vibe that Aus­tralian come­dies have tra­di­tion­ally shunned. In spite of some pac­ing and script­ing prob­lems, the film’s con­tem­po­rary line of at­tack with its hu­mour is an un­qual­i­fied suc­cess.

When it comes to the all- im­por­tant is­sue of re­lat­ing to the ti­tle char­ac­ter, how­ever, the ap­peal of the ma­te­rial is more un­fo­cused than univer­sal.

At the age of 27, Ben ( played by Josh Law­son) is go­ing through what he calls ‘‘ a quar­ter- life cri­sis’’.

Our first im­pres­sions of Ben also turn out to be last­ing ones. For much of this slen­der tale, he is a self- ab­sorbed swing­ing sin­gle liv­ing the in­ner- city dream to the hilt.

Though rat­tled by an ill- fated ap­pear­ance at a ca­reers night at his old school – where the stu­dents were openly dis­in­ter­ested in his sput­ter­ing spiel about life as a prod­uct brand man­ager – Ben is at a loss as to how to change his ways.

And so, even as he is plagued by in­tense pangs of ‘‘ is that all there is?’’ doubt, Benny Boy keeps swag­ger­ing from lover to lover ( a Rus­sian ten­nis star, a model) and so­cial func­tion to so­cial func­tion ( the Aus­tralian Open, the Melbourne Cup) as be­fore.

If this is a jour­ney to en­light­en­ment, one can only as­sume the map was se­ri­ously mis­placed at some point dur­ing the script­ing process.

The lack of an em­phatic point to the movie leaves Law­son some­what ex­posed as a lead­ing man.

When the go­ing is good, he is able to turn on the self- dep­re­cat­ing charm.

When­ever the story keeps dou­bling back upon it­self, a cer­tain air of self- sat­is­fied smarm creeps into Law­son’s per­for­mance.

The core strengths of Any Ques­tions for Ben? can be found as you move fur­ther down the cast list.

Tas­ma­nia’s own Rachael Tay­lor ( as the in­ter­na­tional aid worker who may one day come to Ben’s ro­man­tic res­cue) ex­udes a warmth and as­sur­ance that in­stantly snaps Law­son out of his funk in their scenes to­gether.

It is a shame she is miss­ing in ac­tion for lengthy spells in the picture.

Sup­port­ing play­ers such as Ed Kavalee, Lachy Hulme, Felic­ity Ward and Alan Brough also cap­i­talise bril­liantly on small, but very amus­ing roles that cap­ture the in­tended essence of the film. Now show­ing Vil­lage Cine­mas

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