There were no questions for Ben (Josh Lawson). After being invited back to lecture at his high school with other high flyers, Ben’s apparent career successes pale in comparison to his former classmates. Plenty of questions were raised for the other four speakers, but not for poor Ben. Acting as the impetus, the 27-year-old professional protagonist is plunged into an existential crisis.
Ben’s life, after all, is quite the troubling conundrum. He has calm and caring parents, lively friends, oodles of money, a successful job, and a burgeoning number of buxom beauties falling into his bed night after night. And yet something is missing: purpose. Not that Ben is able to reach this conclusion easily. And he certainly has no trouble expressing his frustration with supreme and irritating whining.
Working Dog, the team that brought us The Castle and The Dish, have teamed up once again. Technically, Any Questions for Ben is a fine film. Rob Stitch’s directing is well paced and the writing from Sitch, Santo Cilauro, Tom Gleisner is snappy and humourous. The supporting characters are amiable and entertaining caricatures, with particular attention going to roommate and best friend Nick (Daniel Henshall), hilarious and awkward boss Malcolm (David James), the vulgar mentor Sam (Lachy Hulme) and a brief appearance from John Howard. Melbourne too plays a supporting character and wins the award for best costume, production design and makeup. In other words, Melbourne looks beautifully picturesque and is shot with magnificent charm. You would be excused if you were to believe that either the film serves as a token for Tourism Victoria and the City of Melbourne, or that they are gigantic financiers of the film.
Though minimally together on screen, Josh Lawson and his leading lady Rachael Taylor have impressive chemistry together. The film would have benefited from an extended look at their budding relationship, rather than at least a superfluous 20 minutes of Lawson lamenting the fact he has never had to ask out a girl before (the poor, unfortunate, privileged, affluent swine.) Taylor has stronger screen presence than in her previous films and is strikingly charming, and completely believable. Lawson is fine, but does seem to exude the unmistakable, unspeakable quality that a leading man should exhibit.
Amiable and affable, Any Questions for Ben is an Australian comedy that especially speaks to those in the ever increasingly popular “quarter-life crisis” with a slice of romance on the side.
Any Questions for Ben opens theatrically in Australia on February 9 through Roadshow Films.