My expectations for this movie were pretty low. Ben Affleck's resume is very much hit and miss, with the misses being sometimes being of epic proportion. As well, I had seen two recent movies by director Mike Bender (Upside of Anger and Reign over Me) which certainly did not live up to praises and high ratings they received. It was thus with skepticism that I decided to kill time watching Man About Town, expecting a total dud. I was proved wrong.
Much like its successor Reign Over Me, the main character here is going through issues and everything is rather organic and poignantly directed, contrary to the usual remote third person view employed in "safer" Hollywood work. There are some light comedic moments here but what makes them work is how human and heartfelt the struggles are depicted. And while Ben Affleck will never be the second coming of a Ed Norton or Anthony Hopkins, here he gives a very honest and balanced performance and we cannot help but sympathize with this character caught in the artificial life of Los Angeles and talent agencies.
If anything, one plot tread about his book takes perhaps too much importance in what is otherwise a sober treatment of character and the issues he has to deal with in his personal and professional life. The entire cast is extremely good and was well chosen, although it does feel like they could have done more with John Cleese. One exception: I really felt Bai Ling was off in her performance.
Overall, this is a very enjoyable movie with a satisfying conclusion instead of the usual eye-rolling fest with the easy way out.
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