Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Search for John Gissing (2001)

Director: Mike Binder                                    Writers: Mike Binder
Film Score: Larry Groupé                              Cinematography: Sue Gibson
Starring: Mike Binder, Alan Rickman, Janeane Garofalo and Juliet Stevenson

The Search for John Gissing is a mildly entertaining film by Mike Binder, who does triple duty here, not only writing and directing, but starring as well. It was probably a few jobs too many for him. The script has several problems, not the least of which is trying to figure out what the motivation of the main character is. Despite his “this is my war” speech he is alternately sly and resourceful or dull and clueless. It’s on the precipice of being a good script, but probably needed a Hollywood veteran to push it over all the way. Binder’s acting also leaves a bit to be desired. With a look slightly like Ben Stiller, I kept watching the whole film wishing he was Ben Stiller. The direction is probably the best part. Interesting set ups and editing make for a fun film that simply lacks polish.

The script has Binder and his wife, Janeane Garofalo, moving to London so that he can take a promotion as part of the multi-national corporation he’s been working for. His contact man is Alan Rickman as the title character. What Binder doesn’t know is that he’s to replace Rickman and so Rickman decides to make his life miserable in the hopes that he’ll just leave. And it almost works. After two days Garofalo has had enough and wants to go. But Binder turns the tables on Rickman. With a big presentation to merge with a German company he sabotages Rickman’s materials and gets him fired. But this is jut the beginning. The second half is definitely funnier, but there is still an uneasiness that is difficult to embrace that also seems like a flaw in the script.

Regardless, one of the best kept secrets in film is that Alan Rickman is a comedic genius. Whatever you think of the film, his turn as the Sheriff of Nottingham in the Kevin Costner Robin Hood was fantastic. He can do the subtle stuff like that, or Quigley Down Under, or totally go over the top with something like Galaxy Quest. My favorite part of the film, however, is seeing Juliet Stevenson again. She is just one of the most wonderful actresses ever, and I sure wish she could get some bigger films and gain a wider following because she is a brilliant actress. As for the rest of the cast . . . Janeane Garofalo is great, toned down considerably from her usual battering ram of sarcasm, but the rest are just adequate, including Binder himself. Still, The Search for John Gissing has its funny moments, and some great performances, and is an enjoyable film overall.

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