Manny Lewis

manny lewis

Crack comedian Carl Barron stars as the titular rib tickler in what should potentially be one of Australian cinema’s success stories of this year, MANNY LEWIS.

Adhering to the adage “write what you know”, Baron fashioned the story of the film around a stand-up comic, the process of the work, the tiring travail of touring, and the loneliness of being on the road.

Taking the story to director Anthony Mir, himself a former stand-up, the pair took themselves to Italy to structure and polish a script. As you would …

MANNY LEWIS is basically a melding of the tears of the clown scenario with the boy meets girl, boy loses girl routine.

Having made quite a career as a comedian and standing bluff to bachelorhood so long, Manny has an appetite for companionship. Trouble is, touring takes its toll on his time and relationship building. So he seeks solace by dialing a fantasy sex phone service.

He is connected to a husky voiced sheila calling herself Caroline. Instead of using her for carnal aural erotica he engages her in a sort of confession and a penitent/priest relationship is forged.

Coincidentally, he meets Maria, the flesh behind the fantasy voice at a Kings Cross café and has a connection, blithely unaware that Maria is Caroline.

Caroline is the first person he calls to tell about meeting Maria and his elation and fear about embarking on a romantic endeavour.

Leeanna Walsman is sensational as Maria/Caroline, a sublime mix of vulnerability and adventure, in many ways a mirror of Manny, someone who wants to please him and ease him from his own cynical self doubts.

Roy Billing, relaxed and laconic as Manny’s dad Lyle is a good fit to play the father whose style of parenthood feeds and fuels the patter of much of Manny’s routine.

Damien Garvey as Manny’s agent Jimmy Miller serves as a counterpoint to Manny’s melancholy, a bloke with a good work/home balance and a doting dad to boot.

The Sydney locations, with heavy emphasis on Kings Cross’ Llankelly Place are superbly shot by Carl Robertson and the narrative unspools at a brisk and neat ninety minutes.

What claws MANNY LEWIS from the clinches of cliché is the warmth and honesty of its characters. Honest dignity and self-deprecating humour allay hackneyed exchanges, clunky exposition and predictable plot developments from getting the upper hand.