Coming to DVD shortly after star Ben Affleck’s terrific “Hollywoodland” is the modern Hollywood tale, “Man About Town”, which is sort of “Swimming With Sharks” - but replace sharks with guppies (or maybe Swedish fish? Those are pretty good.). Director Mike Binder’s “Man About Town” is rather subtle little tale about an agent named Jack Giamoro, who has been married for four years to Nina (Rebecca Romijn) and yet, all he can manage to come up with to describe her is that she’s…a really good swimmer.
In-between work and play, he starts writing a journal to try and understand the writing process more (he handles writers) and get some of his thoughts down. Thoughts that happen to contain a few secrets about his life (a troubled childhood) and career. When the book falls into the hands of a journalist (Bai Ling) who wants to write an expose and he learns that his wife has been having an affair, everything falls apart. The role is one that Affleck has done before (see “Bounce” and “Jersey Girl”) and has it down about as well as can be: the slick the professional who thinks he has it all figured out, only to have the world come down on him, forcing him to reexamine what’s important in his life.
While Affleck has played a similar character in better movies, that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing to see here, as Affleck continues to be able to play slick characters who fall from the top, only to work their way back up again (and characters that are arrogant, yet at least somewhat sympathetic.) The only problem with Affleck’s performance isn’t Affleck’s fault - there’s a bit late in the story where he gets bad false teeth, and it just looks (and sounds) too ridiculous. Romijn isn’t bad as Nina, although her role is pretty thin and thankless - she’s really not in the movie all that much. Kal Penn and Gina Gershon are also given fairly one-dimensional roles as assistants, although at least they make an impression in bit parts. John Cleese also turns up as a writing teacher, managing to somehow be funny and a bit over-the-top while also being a bit more grounded.
I think the main issue that I had with “Man About Town” is that it takes a while to get going - while the story’s not dull, the build up to the journal’s disappearance is nearly a good hour into the picture and the set-up, while not dull, feels padded by a few minutes. Admittedly, I can see how this picture didn’t hit theatres. It’s a little uneventful and feels more at home in the confines of the small screen. Still, I liked a fair amount about this little film, as director Binder strikes the right note of melancholy and manages to mix comedy (there’s a pretty funny and random throwaway Gary Marshall joke) and drama reasonably well.
Overall, “Man About Town” is rather thin (by the time that Affleck’s character is running through Chinatown after an absurd face-off scene, the threads holding the thing together have begun to unravel), but Binder has gathered a capable cast and Affleck’s performance just carries the film enough for it to be consistently watchable on a snowy afternoon.
VIDEO: Lion’s Gate presents “Man About Town” in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Picture quality isn’t anything to write home about, but image quality is consistently decent throughout the show. Sharpness and detail are fine, as while the picture never appeared crystal clear, the image mostly looked crisp. No edge enhancement was spotted, but the image did show some grain and a couple of instances of artifacting. Colors appeared bold and bright, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film’s Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack was completely dialogue-driven, with no noticeable use of the surrounds. Audio quality was fine, with clear dialogue and no distortion or other issues.
EXTRAS: Extras include bloopers, deleted scenes, “Talk To My Agent” documentary, and the “Visual Journaling” documentary.
Final Thoughts:Overall, “Man About Town” is rather thin (by the time that Affleck’s character is running through Chinatown after an absurd face-off scene, the threads holding the thing together have begun to unravel), but Binder has gathered a capable cast and Affleck’s performance just carries the film enough for it to be consistently watchable on a snowy afternoon. The DVD offers good audio/video quality and a couple of minor extras. Rent it.
The Film B-