The crew that brought us The Castle and The Dish (as well as TV favourites Thank God You’re Here and Frontline), Rob Sitch, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner now bring us Any Questions for Ben?. Where their first film was about the nuclear family and the second about a scientific one, this is about the family of friends or pre a real family.
Ben (Josh Lawson) is a rampaging 27 year old marketing whiz indulging himself in Melbourne life without ever committing to anything – residency, employer or partner – who starts to question where his life is going after being recalled to his high school and finding no student at the careers night has any interest in what he does.
The focus of his quarter life crisis (as such things seem to be increasingly observed or referred to) is Alex (Rachel Taylor), an old flame from Uni days who personifies everything he isn’t and is beautiful and engaging to boot.
If the outcome of this film seems inevitable from just this preamble, spare a thought for those who see it coming only 20 minutes into this two hour production.
Sure, the Working Dog team write some funny stuff but this film is more filled with quips than farce and the rapid edit style especially of the opening half hour or more makes it tough to embrace any of the characters. There are nonetheless some great moments, reflecting on a view after skiing and issues with immigration (which sadly for the film only plays out in the credits) are two worthy of mention.
The problem for films like this (including the recent Burning Man) is that as appealing as the looks of the lead man may be, his character is not. Guys in their late 20s early 30s, self indulgent and possessed, are void of the innocence or good nature that makes us want to like them no matter how recognisable they may be in our own daily lives. (Consider Dudley Moore in Arthur and how he made that gross personality lovable.)
Unless their myopia causes them to stumble and crash in funny ways, empathy in the audience is hard to obtain. And unless the actor is possessed of great skill, it all falls a bit flat.
Rachel Taylor does a nice job but the best of the male leads is easily taken by Daniel Henshall of Snowtown renown.
Sadly, Any Questions for Ben is tiresome and way too long – one iteration of the budding love with Alex should have been cut. It possesses strong resonances of The Devil Wears Prada (with a gender switch) but neither the characters, the actiors nor the humour are enough to elevate it to anything like as memorable as much of the Working Dog team’s earlier work.
Kryztoff Rating 2.5K
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