SXSW FILM 2010
By Dave Campbell | March 30, 2010
Director: Chris D’Arienzo
Writers: Chris D’Arienzo (screenplay), Frank Turner Hollon (novel)
Starring: Patrick Wilson, Judy Greer, Chloe Sevigny, Jean Smart, Malcolm McDowell, Cybill Shepherd, Billy Dee Williams, Colin Hanks, Missi Pyle, Christopher McDonald, Kyle Gass
Based on the novel Life is a Strange Place by Frank Turner Hollon, Barry Munday (Patrick Wilson) is the poster-child of all douche bags. His tool-ery seems to have no end, as this self proclaimed ladies man who inappropriately flirts with his female co-workers and heads out to local fern bars each night with his best friend to try and score with chicks. Conquests are somehow accomplished on a fairly regular basis for Barry, proving that desperation seems to fall on both parties in these stringless and empty sexual encounters.
During an unexpected hookup at a shopping mall movie theater, Barry meets an aggressive young lady who turns out to not only be underage, but who is also being followed by her enraged father. At this point Barry hasn’t crossed any lines, but quickly becomes the off camera victim of the girl’s father wielding a trumpet, which lands Barry in the hospital…sans testicles.
While recovering Barry gets even more bad news when he is served with a paternity lawsuit from the lawyer of Ginger Farley (Judy Greer), a mousey, quirky one-night stand he has no memory of. Now Barry must face the true meaning of manhood and evolve into a selfless human being in order to embrace his only chance at fatherhood, family, and the possibility of a meaningful relationship.
Barry Munday may have a familiar sounding plot on the surface, but it is far from following any clichés or parallels with any other pregnancy comedy before it. The tone is more in line with Office Space or classic comedies of the 80’s, and more offbeat than mainstream comedies like Meet the Fockers or Knocked Up. The characters in Barry Munday are proportionate and well developed revolving around the evolutionary path of Barry’s journey of manhood rather than the process of pregnancy. The casting for Barry Munday was perfect and the soundtrack was thoughtfully selected for the film; I just hope they are able to secure all the songs for the film when it lands a distribution deal, because it’s going to have a hefty price tag.
A beefed up Patrick Wilson (possibly left over from WATCHMEN) freakishly embodies the persona of a creep you are used to seeing in TV shows like Tool Academy, but transitions into an endearing, likable, and relatable guy. His performance was just so impressively believable as Barry and I really appreciated that he refrained from becoming a typical comedy caricature. At the same time, the naturally attractive Judy Greer tones her looks down to play the socially inept, modest, uptight, but at the core sweet Ginger Farley. Though Wilson is the driving focal point of Barry Munday, Greer is truely his equal on the screen and I absolutely loved this casting choice. Then if that wasn’t enough, the supporting cast just makes this already hilarious film even more enjoyable with Jean Smart as Barry’s mom Carol, Malcolm McDowell & Cybill Shepherd as Mr. & Mrs Farley, Chloe Sevigny as Ginger’s sexy sister Jennifer, Billy Dee Williams as Barry’s boss Mr. Green, Colin Hanks as Heavy Metal Greg, Missi Pyle as Barry’s ex-girlfriend Lida, Christopher McDonald as Dr. Preston Edwards and Kyle Gass as Jerry from Barry’s support group.
Barry Munday was the biggest surprise for me at SXSW Film 2010. It looked entertaining, but the simple synopsis that was provided to us online and in the program did zero amount of justice to how enjoyable, charming, and well made this film is. This is no throw away, watch it and forget it, cheap laughs type of comedy. Barry Munday is brilliantly written and directed by first time director Chris D’Arienzo who you may know for writing the book and Tony nominated musical Rock of Ages, and also for his musical background in the band Trainwreck (Tenacious D connection). I was fortunate enough to get the chance to chat with Chris D’Arienzo after the SXSW screening, and he couldn’t have been more approachable or friendly. It is very apparent that D’Arienzo knows his characters intimately well and has the aptitude to translate his written vision organically through the actors and onto the screen. Based on this work alone, D’Arienzo has a very promising film career ahead of him.