Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Merry Gentleman

Kate (Kelly MacDonald) leaves her abusive husband and gets a job in the big city. While leaving work Kate sees Logan (Michael Keaton) standing on the ledge of a building and cries out, startling him into stepping back. Although it’s never made explicit why Logan wants to end his life, it’s likely that guilt over his job as a hitman is at least part of the reason. Tom Bastounes rounds out the main cast as Dave Murcheson, a police officer assigned to investigate Logan’s most recent job. He interviews Kate as a possible witness, and becomes smitten with her. Logan is interested in Kate as well, but his reasons aren’t entirely clear at first.

It sounds like The Merry Gentleman would be a thriller based on that description, but it’s not. It’s more of a drama about how the lives of three damaged people intersect with and affect each other. None of these characters are honest with each other, and the way these deceptions keep them from connecting meaningfully seems to be one of the primary themes. The movie is also concerned with questions of religion and faith, and whether and to what degree God intercedes in the world. This is perhaps most clearly stated when Kate talks about praying for her husband’s death, and wonders if God would grant such a prayer.

The Merry Gentleman is Michael Keaton’s first time as a director, and he delivers a subtle, low key film. The performances, especially MacDonald’s, are excellent. There is no pat ending to the film; it leaves plenty of loose ends dangling, giving the viewer something to ponder and discuss. There are no heroes or villains as such, no traditional romance. It’s slow moving and melancholy, and I’m sure some people will find it boring. For others, including myself, it’s a nice break from the typical summer fare. I can’t say I loved this movie, but I did like it, and beyond that, I respected it for doing something different. 3 out of 4 stars.

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