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The Merry Gentleman

Not So Merry, But Still Worth It

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Michael Keaton makes his directorial debut with The Merry Gentleman and itís a welcome addition to his long but spotty repertoire. He hasnít really made a quality picture since Quentin Tarantinoís Jackie Brown in 1997 and itís refreshing to see him make a comeback with such a quiet and intelligent film.

While the film isnít a home run, itís a valiant effort by Keaton as he straddles both sides of the camera for the first time. Fortunately, he has a great script by fairly newcomer Ron Lazzeretti to work with. He also has a cast of astonishing actors, especially Kelly Macdonald (No Country For Old Men) who gives the best performance of her career. Unfortunately, itís a film that wonít strike many. Itís slow, itís frustrating and above all it asks a lot of its audience.

Many will most definitely see those as detractions but will be relieved that Keaton is bold enough to put the experience of the film entirely on his audience. He doesnít offer definitive answers nor does he explicitly ask the questions. What Keaton does do is create an amazing, ambience piece that exposes character depths through the required reflection on the part of the viewer.

The film centers on Kate Frazier (Macdonald) as she begins a new life, under fuzzy circumstances, and with a persistent black eye. Then thereís Frank Logan (Keaton) an aging hit man (tailor by day) who is contemplating to kill himself. After he kills a man in a building where Kate works, he is about to jump off the ledge of the adjacent ledge, when she sees him and scares him off. That is when Kate meets Dave (Tom Bastounes) the investigating cop into the murder, who takes a liking to her. As he makes ill attempts at winning her heart, Frank also befriends her. Soon the three become entangled in a mysterious plot with the true nature of Frank stuck in the middle.

Itís a story that challenges the true nature of humanity. Weíre not what we appear, or are we? Of course this is not a new revelation in art, or in film, however Keaton crafts a story that doesnít tell the audience how to feel. We must make our own decisions of the characters based on their interactions with one another, their decisions and their shortcomings.