Barry Munday (2010) Rated R, for sexual content and language. Dir:Chris D’Arienzo
This film opens October 1st in selected U.S.theaters.
In this comedy directed by Chris D’Arienzo based on the novel Life is a Strange Place by Frank Turner Hollon, Patrick Wilson plays Barry Munday, a suburban wanna-be ladies man, who makes up in the hospital with both of his testicles gone after being attacked in a movie theater for hitting on the wrong girl. To make matters worse, a paternity lawsuit is filed by a woman he can’t remember having sex with. Realizing this being his last chance to ever be a father, Barry decides to take on the responsibility on being a good father.
My initial impression of the concept of this film was that this film could either be a feminist revenge fantasy or a raunchy comedy. Thankfully, this film was neither of those, but turned out to be a surprisingly poignant little comedy, with a honest, introspective look at what being a man entails beyond having the body parts, if you will. Given it’s a comedy, there were many predictable directions this film could have taken at the expense of Patrick Wilson’s character, Barry. Surprisingly, the film avoids the obvious and portrays Barry in a sympathetic and real way. Barry starts off as an irresponsible loafer, whose main interest involve bedding women, who soon after loses his most prized asset and what he feels makes him a man. He goes through a slump until he finds out that someone may actually be carrying his child (from a previous fling he had no recollection of). In a sense, he realizes being a father may be the only thing left that connects him to his manhood.
Barry meets the mother of the child, Ginger Farley (Judy Greer), who isn’t particularly a looker, to put it nicely. Her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Farley, as played by Cybill Shepherd and Malcolm McDowell, seem to agree that Ginger hadn’t quite lived up to their expectations, in beauty and otherwise, unlike their model daughter, Jennifer (Chloë Sevigny). There’s noticeably a bit of a sibling rivalry between Ginger and Jennifer. As we get to know the characters, we see personal baggage behind both Ginger and Barry which perhaps contributed much in how they viewed themselves and their lifestyle. With Ginger full of bitterness and resentment toward Barry, the relationship between Barry and Ginger is often awkward and comic as Barry is honestly trying to know her better for the first time.
Patrick Wilson (Watchmen) is close to perfect in the role of Barry, where he deftly milks the comic aspects of his shallow character as well as his eventual change to a deeper, sympathetic, and more serious side. Judy Greer plays the awkward Ginger Farley with caustic wit and consistency. Cybill Shepherd and Malcolm McDowell in their supporting roles as Ginger’s parents, the Farleys, turn in expectedly seasoned performances. Bill Dee Williams (do I even have to mention Empire Strikes Back?) is his usual charming self as Barry’s Delorean-driving boss, who happens to be close to the Farleys. Jean Smart is great as the blunt, yet sharp-minded, Carol Munday, Barry’s mother.
This independent film marks Chris D’ Arienzo’s directorial debut and it is a strong one. The comedy feels natural because it’s fairly close to life for the most part. The emotions of the characters feel genuine. It is unexpectedly touching. Patrick Wilson does great work in his role as the titular character. It’s not what I would call a laugh-a-minute comedy, but a deeper, thoughtful film that happens to have much comedy-usually the type of films I gravitate toward. This film left me with some thoughts long afterwards, which says a lot about a comedy, let alone any film.
My Rating: *** ½ out of ****