So this is Christ­mas

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews - JOE GRIF­FIN

THE FOL­LOW­ING recipe might lead you to think of a cheery Christ­mas con­coc­tion: Michael Keaton, an up­beat ti­tle, a yule­tide theme. Maybe you’re think­ing of Keaton’s last ma­jor role, Jack Frost? Think again.

The Merry Gen­tle­man is a pe­cu­liar film, a re­la­tion­ship drama crossed with a lonely hit­man movie. Keaton is Frank Lo­gan, a soli­tary as­sas­sin con­tem­plat­ing sui­cide. Kelly Macdon­ald is Kate Fra­zier, a young woman who’s re­lo­cated af­ter es­cap­ing an abu­sive mar­riage.

One evening, Kate sees Frank tee­ter­ing on a ledge. Her scream star­tles him and he falls back­wards onto the roof. Not long af­ter­wards, they de­velop a quiet, ten­ta­tive friend­ship. Mean­while, podgy de­tec­tive Dave Murch­esen (Tom Bas­tounes), who has de­signs on Kate, is in­ves­ti­gat­ing a se­ries of sus­pi­cious deaths.

The Merry Gen­tle­man has a strange at­mos­phere akin to a song sung slightly off-key. It’s hard to re­sist a film that ac­knowl­edges the pain and lone­li­ness of the Silly Sea­son, and Keaton’s di­rec­to­rial de­but cer­tainly does that. Not one but three sep­a­rate char­ac­ters con­tem­plate sui­cide, and the of­fice Christ­mas party is painted as a sad col­lage of joy­less dal­liances and awk­ward jokes.

Keaton, while ob­vi­ously not the draw he once was, has al­ways been ver­sa­tile, but The Merry Gen­tle­man is his most re­strained per­for­mance to date. It’s easy to see why the ki­netic ac­tor wanted to do some­thing more sub­dued, but the char­ac­ters played by Macdon­ald (brave, vul­ner­a­ble) and Bas­tounes (tena­cious, in­se­cure) are much more rounded. Leon without the action, Grosse Pointe Blank without the com­edy,

The Merry Gen­tle­man will per­plex as many as it will cap­ti­vate. Its pace is de­lib­er­ate and it’s not without its flaws (the sub­plot of the killings could have been clearer, for ex­am­ple). But with its calm, strange tone and its por­trait of an odd­ball friend­ship, Keaton’s film is a cu­ri­ously in­gra­ti­at­ing Christ­mas present.

The hit­man and her: Michael Keaton and Kelly Macdon­ald

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.