The Merry Gentleman
dir Michael Keaton
scr Ron Lazzeretti
prd Steven A Jones
with Michael Keaton, Kelly Macdonald, Bobby Cannavale, Tom Bastounes, Darlene Hunt, Guy Van Swearingen, Larry Neumann Jr, William Dick, Greg Mills, Mike Bradecich, Sean Fortunato, Shaun Gayle
release US 1.May.09, UK 20.Nov.09
08/US 1h36
The Merry Gentleman
Seeking salvation: Keaton and Macdonald

keaton macdonald cannavale
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Merry Gentleman Moody and thoughtful, this quiet character study is extremely beautiful to look at and features some superbly understated performances. But it moves at such a slow pace that most viewers will find it difficult to stick around until the end.

Frank (Keaton) and Kate (Macdonald) see each other before they meet. He's a hitman on top of a building, efficiently going about his grisly business; she's a lively office worker still recovering after running away from her abusive husband (Cannavale). They meet later, in a cute Christmas sort of way, and strike up a warm and wary friendship. Both aren't so much lonely as alone. Although Kate has a new friend (Hunt) at the office and has attracted the attentions of the cop (Bastounes) investigating who she saw on that rooftop.

And that's about it. The film has a very gentle rhythm to it that never shifts up a gear. It's a meandering look at two people who seem to have nothing in common but have somehow managed to save each others' lives. Of course, the title is an ironic reference to the Christmas carol, and Keaton plays Frank as an enigma, finding a remarkable stillness in every scene. Macdonald has a kind of stillness too, except that we can see her emotional core churning through every scene. Both performances are graceful and moving.

And as the film silently follows these two very private people, it achieves a kind of elegant soulfulness, even tough it seems to be progressing in slow motion. There's a heavy whiff of fatalism involved in Lazzeretti's minimalist plot and chit-chat dialog, which lends itself nicely to Keaton's dark, brooding direction and creepy overtones that hint at a thriller that seems to be taking place off-screen.

Because behind these reticent people are lives that hint at violence and suicidal tendencies. But both also have an almost reluctant will to survive. The film is strong enough to bring all of this out with an intelligence that's never remotely pretentious. And for two rather uninteresting people, we do find ourselves interested in who they really are and where they're going from here.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 6.Aug.09

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© 2009 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall