Man of the Century

on October 29, 1999 by Mike Kerrigan
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   This audacious, hilarious black-and-white indie is like nothing else you have ever seen. It even defies description in the way Hollywood loves to cross-breed genres with taglines like "`Die Hard' on a space station". What this movie does is take a New York newspaper columnist circa 1920 and plant him in modern-day Manhattan, complete with job and girlfriend. What is truly courageous and so brilliant about the script is that none of the characters in the film admit that there is anything really bizarre about it. A little odd, maybe, but nothing to make a big deal about.
   Gibson Frazier is flawless as Johnny Twennies (get it?), the immaculately dressed, perfectly mannered newsman with the most colorful vocabulary this side of the Depression. Words like moxie and poopsie tumble from his lips. He is totally politically incorrect but so optimistic and relentlessly cheerful that you can't help loving him.
   He uses a manual typewriter, asks for phone numbers using the old name prefixes and smokes constantly from a supply of cigarettes kept in a silver case. He sends people telegrams and his diet has enough cholesterol to kill a horse, but Johnny seems to thrive on it.
   The wonderful conceit of this film is that eccentricity is tolerated even when it is completely anachronistic. At the end of the day, Johnny is no stranger than the guy sitting on the sidewalk yelling at everyone who passes. It is great comedy but it is also fascinating social commentary.
   Of course, Johnny unique perspective and total lack of guile provides most of the laughs. When people are discussing cable, he claims he gets cables all the time. When somebody is accused of being a drama queen, Johnny thinks he's a theatrical fellow.
   The supporting cast is first rate and Adam Abraham's direction keeps the pretense with great aplomb. Starring Gibson Frazier, Susan Egan, Anthony Rapp and Cara Buono. Directed by Adam Abrahams. Written and produced by Adam Abrahams and Gibson Frazier. A Fine Line release. Comedy. Not yet rated. Running time: 77 min
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