The Merry Gentleman
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Michael Keaton is definitely a well-rounded performer. He’s done drama. He’s done comedy. He’s done family movies and scary movies. He’s even played Batman. But he never took the big step behind the camera until The Merry Gentleman—and now that he’s tried it, part of me hopes that he’ll step right back.

The Merry Gentleman is a slow and sleepy drama about two lonely characters who build an unlikely friendship. Kate (Kelly Macdonald) is a battered woman who finally got up the courage to leave her abusive cop husband, Michael (Bobby Cannavale), and start over in a new town. One night, as she’s leaving work, Kate interrupts an apparent suicide attempt—and although the jumper disappears, the police suspect that he may have been the same man who killed someone in Kate’s office building earlier that evening. But as Kate works with Detective Murcheson (Tom Bastounes), who’s handling the case, it becomes pretty clear that he’s interested in more than just the killer.

Not long after the incident, Kate meets Frank Logan (Keaton), a quiet, awkward tailor who (unbeknownst to her) is actually the suicidal killer whose life she saved. The two secretive loners become close friends, but Detective Murcheson refuses to give up on Kate—and he tries to find out more about her quiet friend.

Keaton couldn’t seem to cut to the chase with his directorial debut, but I’ll cut right to the chase with my review: The Merry Gentleman is an awkward and tedious film that’s light on action and dialogue and heavy on long, uncomfortable silences.

Clearly, Keaton wanted to make The Merry Gentleman an actor’s film—highlighting the performances and telling the story through the actors’ slightest facial expressions. Unfortunately, though, facial expressions can tell just so much of the story. A blink of an eye or a long, meaningful glance can’t tell the audience who these characters are or why we should care.

Viewers learn all they’re going to learn about the characters from a quick scene or two at the beginning of the film. Kate’s a pretty straightforward character, but we learn next to nothing about Frank—who he is, where he came from, why he does what he does. In fact, we pretty much have to infer that he’s a suicidal hitman. For all we know, he could be a homicidal sociopath with a penchant for standing on ledges.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t get any better from there, either. I kept hoping that something would happen—something to spice up the story or add just a little bit of intrigue. But very little happens—and whatever plot the film does have is filled with holes. Then, when it all comes to an end, it seems that it doesn’t have much of a point at all.

I can definitely appreciate Keaton’s subtle performance as Frank. In fact, Keaton’s directing seems to have brought out the best in most of his cast. But even the most brilliant performance needs something to back it up. Like a story. Maybe some kind of captivating action or drama. Or even just a connection. But The Merry Gentleman has none of that—no connection, no story, and no closure—making it anything but a merry movie-going experience.

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