Little Screen :: Carl Barron’s ‘Manny Lewis’ review
March 26th 2015
Released in Australian cinemas this month, Manny Lewis is iconic Aussie comedian Carl Barron’s cinematic debut, as both actor and writer.
Manny Lewis (Barron) has just finished up the last leg of his stand-up tour and is suddenly left in the company of himself and his thoughts, neither of which are in the best shape. His solitude is soon broken when he meets beautiful wallflower Maria (Leeanna Walsman) at a café down the road, whose love helps him confront the heavy-weighted habits of his personality that keep his life going in circles.
In its first week of release, there’s already been a mixed bag of reviews – with many criticising the film’s lack of originality and substance. Sure, there’s no doubting that the story is simple, there are no wow moments that make you rethink your idea of cinema or the world. It’s not that kind of film. But it is another kind – the one you watch, laugh and just enjoy.
First and foremost, the main reason for this is Carl Barron himself. Barron cleverly integrates the Aussie observational humour that we love him for into his role as Manny. He uses it make light of the parts of human nature that don’t make any sense, but that we can’t change. Beyond that, Barron also injects a sense of melancholy into his role to show the isolation that can come with being a celebrity funny man, although it isn’t quite enough to disguise his real persona.
The film takes the classic ‘rom com’ drama and adds some quirks from home.
It’s the little details – from Iced VoVos and Tim Tam tea drinking to the character-rich locations of Kings Cross and Potts Point streets and drinking holes.
It’s a simple pleasure to see these little elements of an Aussie persona on screen.
But the film explores another, more unexpected element of Australian culture: the relationship between Manny and his father. This is where I’d argue that the film proves to have some substance. Manny’s father, played so sincerely by the great Roy Billing, exhibits the persona of a stereotypical Aussie dad: a blokey, beer drinking smart-arse who teases his kids with jokes rather than expressing affection. One day Manny visits him with a question that completely challenges this stereotype, and in doing so confronts the image of the blokey Aussie father with a sentimentality that you don’t often see in Australian films, and that I couldn’t help but admire.
On the side of criticism, though, the soundtrack didn’t do much for the story – if anything, it took away from what could have been more quality moments. And it was a bummer to see another Aussie film (*ahem, Wish You Were Here) that blurs the Australian landscape into a series of irrelevant Bokeh bubbles – quickly reminding me of how films in Australia aren’t used often enough as a medium to explore and build our national context.
Take what you want from this review – as always, Little Screen won’t tell you not to go and watch something as I believe that is up to you. Make up your own mind – with a packet of Iced Vovos in hand.
Manny Lewis is screening now at Dendy Cinemas and Event Cinemas across Australia.
Little Screen reviews a mixture of the under-recognised and the critically acclaimed coming out of independent, foreign & home grown Australian cinema– or in other words, films you would’ve loved to see if you’d only heard about them. Little Screen will also keep you up to date with upcoming film screenings, micro-cinema nights and film events. Written by UTS film student and overthinker, Ruby Castagnet.