Any Questions For Ben? A Review

Any Questions For Ben? A Review

This movie has achieved something elusive and so far impossible within romantic comedy – it asks a bigger question than other examples in its genre and answers it better than anything made in Hollywood [arguably] the traditional home of the modern rom com.

Even the question itself is elusive let alone the answer and everyone who sees this movie will relate to The Big Question/s in their own personal way.

What is the meaning of life?

What is the meaning of love?

How do you know who ‘the one’ is?

When is it time to grow up?

Why do I feel so empty?

If I have everything everyone wants, why does it amount to nothing?

Am I wasting my life?

The story revolves around 27 year old Ben who’s having a quarter-life crisis brought on by an invitation back to school to share his career success with the current crop of students.  His old school chum Alex is also there sharing her more noble, meaningful work life and the students have plenty of questions for her – not so many for Ben.  This sends him into a spiritual crisis.

I don’t want to say anything more about the story because it’s great to sit back and have Working Dog work their magic on you from the screen.  You know can you can trust them – they gave us The Castle and The Dish.  And this new film will set a new benchmark for a romantic comedy that is intelligently funny (!) with original lines (!) while provoking the sort of introspection in the audience that will have you walking out of the cinema knowing more about yourself – or it’ll help set you on a journey to find out.

So instead of giving anything away, I’ll tell you what I think about the production of the film.

Casting by Jane Kennedy – didn’t she kick some goals!  When you see a close-up of father and son played by Rob Carlton and Josh Lawson sitting side by side with the same cleft chins – you really believe they are father and son.  A better non-DNA-based pairing is not possible.

And next-big-thing Christian Clark is a good actor, good-looking, funny and has that special something in his eye that makes the latest ‘it’ guy Tom Hardy look like he’s phoning it in.

Now let’s get to Lachy Hulme who owns every role he gets – big or small – in the same searingly strong way that Danny McBride does.  For example – think of all the stars in Up in The Air – then check out how the little role McBride has in that film, is perfectly realized and commands as much attention when he’s on screen as George Clooney does.  That’s what Lachy Hulme has got.  (And while I think of it – he should have had the lead role in the Aussie film Macbeth – it needed his ability for a huge range of simultaneous conflicting emotion.  Maybe Jane Kennedy should have been casting that film too…)  Hulme needs a lead role written for him so he can take it as a business card to Hollywood and get down to business there.

Felicity Ward is another find for the big screen whose comedy counter-balances the blokes without becoming one of them which is refreshing to watch – cos that’s how it often is in the real world.

Dunno why, but Daniel Henshall reminds me a lot of Paul Giamatti but better-looking.  After Snowtown, he had to do a role as far removed from John Bunting as John Bunting is from the real world.  This proves that the recent AACTA Best Actor Award he got – beating Geoffrey Rush, Willem Dafoe and David Wenham – is no fluke.  He’s got the goods and now he’s building up the creds.

Alan Brough was divinely perfect as the disgruntled co-worker, afraid of new ideas and flashy, trashy young blokes who are too cool for school.  His disgusted facial expressions are comedy gold.  Like Rowan Atkinson, Brough doesn’t have to say any funny lines to get laughs – his reaction or lack thereof is just plain funny.

Ed Kavalee has that same effect – his masterful at reaction and non-reaction.  This is half of any comic moment and he’s magical with timing.

All this great timing though depends a lot on Rob Sitch’s directing style and he gets his cast hitting all the right notes at the right moments.

With this savvy directing, Josh Lawson does well in a great role.  He does remind me a little of Matthew Perry but let’s not put all cute, self-deprecating fast talkers into the one box.  The good thing about Josh is he’s nowhere near as irritating as Perry.

Rachael Taylor was quintessentially Rachael.  And With comparatively less acting experience, Jodi Gordon more than held her own.

Mention must be made of the soundtrack – when it comes to punctuating an emotion in a scene on screen it’s easy to think the songs were written just for the movie.  But they weren’t and there’s a great mix of old and new hits.  It’ll be worth picking up on itunes.

The shooting style, the production design and the writing are better than the best of Australian filmmaking at this time.  Working Dog already had a AAA credit rating in terms of delivering quality entertainment but this latest film bumps them up to an even higher level.  Australian audiences can be surprised when local films are made that are ‘as good as’ those from other territories.  But Any Questions For Ben goes beyond this – it’s better than most of the romantic comedies made in Hollywood.

There’s a lot of depth below Ben’s lightness of being.  Like most affluent 1st World people, he has the luxury to sit back, think about what his life means, what he could do with it, then be able to take action and make it happen.  It’s a rare film that explores a crisis not of conscience, but of consciousness.  And because of this, the film will appeal to all genders and most age groups.

At the end of this movie, I didn’t have any questions for Ben but I had a few for myself.  That’s the gift a great movie gives an audience – a greater awareness along with some important clues. 

And I learned some things too such as when it comes to marriage ‘I do’ is a verb.  Also, more people should wear more top hats more often.

Any Questions For Ben is in cinemas from Feb 9.  Check out the trailer here:

[I also loved what the actor did with the character of bald boss in charge of re-inventing the sports brand so if you know who he is, let me know.]