There is a certain quote from the film that I believe forms my reaction to the movie: “I never believed in you, Tim. I just thought you were charming.” This seems harsh, I know. Let me explain myself.
The Giant Mechanical Man (2012) is about thirty-somethings Janice (Jenna Fischer, The Office), a recently fired temp, and Tim (Chris Messina), a street performer, as they struggle to find direction in adult life. Both Janice and Tim find jobs at the local zoo; they are desperate to find a job so that they can prove to the people in their life that they are on the right track. Janice and Tim connect with each other because they both feel lost in a world that assumes that by their age, they have their life figured out.
The framework for a good movie is all in place. The premise of the film is pretty interesting – they’re both directionless zooworkers, Tim being the title character – the Giant Mechanical Man. There is even a good assembly of a cast – Chris Messina, in my viewing experience, is a rather versatile actor. Jenna Fischer is great as the soft-spoken love interest. I even liked Topher Grace, who plays the douchebag motivational speaker Doug (a little too well…). The actors had good chemistry together, most notably between Chris and Jenna. This was not the problem.
The movie, which is a quirky indie romantic comedy, definitely has the faux-indie feel. Think ‘poor’ people living in spacious loft apartments and a soundtrack that would have all the vinyl-loving kids in coffee shops swooning. I’m not sure if this was a poorly researched attempt to make a rom com attractive to the art house crowd, or if director Lee Kirk actually believed that the kinds of life portrayed in the film are actually real.
I think the problem was mainly in the screenplay. The dialogue between characters seemed as though it was written by a fifteen-year-old who was trying to put themselves in a deeply mature existential crisis, but didn’t quite have the words to describe their feelings.
I don’t have a problem with the premise of the movie. Finding direction in one’s life can be very difficult at times, especially when society is so fast-paced. The film is a good reflection on the arrested development of Western society’s young adults – we are told at such an early age that we have to have a definite syllabus of our life, and when we question our blueprint, we feel like outsiders in a world that seems to have it all together.
The audience identification in the film is very accurate, I admit. I am not in my thirties, but I know that my lack of a five-year-plan for myself sets me apart from my peers. What will I do with my life? The Giant Mechanical Man makes the point that there is no strain to know exactly what you want in life, but that you know what you don’t want. That is what experiences, mistakes, and being alive are for: to learn. That is not a cheesy message – that is reality.