Thursday, 7 June 2012

The Limelight

"I'm the guy that invented peanut butter"

The Limelight is an ultra low budget comedy drama that was written, directed and stars comedian Glen Maney. Maney plays Gary Shand, a middle aged stand up comedian who in his own words has lost his wife, his kids, everything. Constantly short of cash, Gary tries desperately to get work through his agent Al (Ricky Grover), a non nonsense hard man who appears to enjoy watching Gary suffer. Gary’s only friends appear to be a young stand up called Sean (Patrick Monahan) who steals his material and bartender Adrian (Mark Monero) who has dreams of being a councillor but is unable to console Gary. The plot follows Gary through his struggles until he is ready to end it all. But is redemption just around the corner?

I was asked to review this film by a friend who knows Glen Maney. Because of this I was worried that I wouldn’t like it and would have to tell him that I thought his friend’s film sucked! On the whole though I’m pleased to say that I did enjoy the film although it is not without its faults. Firstly I thought that the premise and story was excellent and was something that is relatable. The idea of a comic who hasn’t quite made it and is struggling with personal problems is a great narrative idea but I felt that the film could have been punchier and is perhaps better suited to TV. In an episodic format I would have happily returned to see how Gary was getting on week after week.

Coming from a comedian you’d expect this film to be funny and indeed in places it is. I laughed a number of times and much more than I did during the likes of Wanderlust or Morning Glory. The film isn’t an out and out comedy though and features a lot of drama and tragedy. Gary is quite a sad man who through a mixture of circumstance, poor management and his drinking problem has never come close to fulfilling his potential and has lost a lot in the process. Despite the sadness there are still some great comedic moments including gems such as Garry telling Al he has until three to decide something and when Al glances at his watch, Gary counts One… Two… Three. I loved the scene in which Gary is drunk and tries to steal a tramps beer but my favourite scene was when Gary somehow got an attractive woman to a hotel room and was trying to psyche himself up in the mirror. It’s a really funny sequence and shows the characters insecurities. The character is also quite self deprecating which I found both funny and likeable.

The film is very low budget and it shows. IMDb shows an estimated budget of £80,000 which probably wouldn’t even cover the coffee budget of most Hollywood comedies. To criticise the film’s look seems harsh because of the budget but Gareth Evans showed what could be done on a shoes string with Monsters. I think the problem is two fold in that not only is it cheap but the film makers are inexperienced. As a result the sound mixing felt a little out and the fades looked cheap. I also felt that there were far too many shots in which actors looked straight into the camera as though we the audience were the other actor. I also disliked the occasional Benny Hill style sped up shots. Having said all of this, Maney and co director John Robson clearly have some idea about what they are doing as some shots looked great. One in particular in which Gary is choosing between a beer and going home which is shot from above looked excellent. An area in which the production excels is in its choice of music. The film sounds great and I was tapping my toes throughout. It’s an accomplishment that the film sounds as good as it does when its budget is so small.

On the acting front it is Ricky Grover who clearly stands out in a cast which is a mixture of actors, comedians and I suspect a few amateurs. He totally convinces as the hard man agent and is terrifying. The character isn’t a stretch for him but I thought he was excellent. Barman Mark Monero was also very good and Sonya Roseman is convincing as gold digger Sarah. Patrick Monahan is a comedian I’ve seen several times over the past six or so years and I have loved his sets but his acting doesn’t quite cut it here. Glen Maney delivers a performance which is mostly very natural but occasionally feels forced. Because of this the film sometimes had that documentary feel that The Office had and I couldn’t quite tell what was real or fake, scripted or improvised. I actually liked this feeling and it kept me on my toes.

The Limelight is an interesting and funny film and I was never bored. At times it is difficult to see past the production values but is on the whole successful. I liked the idea of the struggling comic who is watching younger guys come through and finding it difficult to remain in control of their life and I’d definitely be interested to watch another film from Glen Maney and John Robson.   

The film can be live streemed or downloaded from it's official website here and wll be available on DVD later this year.


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