Any Questions For Ben?
- Director:Rob Sitch
- Cast:Rob Carlton, Jodi Gordon, Ed Kavalee, Josh Lawson, Rachael Taylor
- Release Date:February 09, 2012
- Running time:101 minutes
- Film Worth:$11.50
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
The talented bunch of actors ably cut through the surface gloss, but it’s tough to remain invested in the plight of the self-absorbed lead.
Having helmed a couple of our most beloved local films with The Castle and The Dish, director Rob Sitch and the Working Dog production team, haven't made a film for twelve years so there's considerable interest surrounding their latest feature, Any Questions For Ben? Subject-wise and stylistically, the film marks a distinctly different outing for Sitch with its inner-city tale of one man searching for meaning in all the wrong places. While it hits the beats of a romantic comedy, like 2010's local hit I Love You Too, this aims for more, serving as somewhat of a coming-of-age story for its twenty-something protagonist.
The real crux of this story rests with Ben, and for many their feelings towards the film will coincide with their patience for his plight. He's played ably by Josh Lawson (the likeable loose-limbed comedian who has worked with Working Dog before on such projects as Thank God You're Here), but he has been written as a character so self-absorbed, frustrating and slow to learn from his mistakes - or perhaps unwilling to give up his sweet, non-committal lifestyle marked by an endless stream of parties, women and money - that it's difficult to remain invested in him. There's only so much you can watch someone else continually partying. The film does kick off with a great premise though that spurs Ben into his period of soul searching. He's invited back to his old high school to talk to current students about his career as a marketing executive. It may be a spiffy job in Ben's bubble, but the kids are decidedly unimpressed. They're enthralled (as is Ben), however, by the stories of fellow speaker Alex (Rachel Taylor), who works in Yemen as a human-rights lawyer. A "quarter-life crisis" ensues with Ben seeking advice from his folks and each of his friends as to the meaning of it all...
The best part of this film is the likeable bunch of actors (Taylor is a natural, although one wonders why someone as supposedly independent, smart and stunning remains attached to Ben; and the affable Daniel Henshall and newcomer Felicity Ward are warm screen presences) that Working Dog have gathered who, with their relaxed humour, ably cut through the production gloss. And there's ample gloss. A distinct stylistic shift away from his previous efforts, here Sitch's visual brief seemed to be bright and shiny. The director obviously wanted to show a different side to Melbourne, but getting to the heart of the city doesn't equate to showing the trendiest cafes and alleyways. Adding to the postcard feel of it all, the film is stuffed to the brim with almost every Australian pop hit from the last decade so that, as an audience, we're never left to feel anything on our own. We're whisked along to the next scene, although in hindsight, that's not a bad representation of Ben's state of mind - moving swiftly onto his next endeavour without allowing anything to fully register.
Sitch and co. should be commended for tackling an age group and accompanying lifestyle which has largely been skipped over in Australian cinema - a new generation in their late twenties who move freely through life and don't like to tie themselves down. There's a resonant truth to this idea that many young adults today have so many opportunities open to them, that they're ironically never forced into any sort of decision making. Filtering this notion almost solely through the character of Ben, however, the film feels decidedly stretched. For all the soul searching and philosophising that takes place, at its heart is merely the tale of a spoilt guy who comes to the obvious realisation that he's after true love, and dressing that up in pop songs and balmy lighting can't make it any more layered or meaningful.