Ah, but cut too much and the audience is left with questions that detract from their enjoyment of the story. To quote an old friend and one of my favorite filmmakers, Ray DeFelitta, who once reminded me that in film, its alright to be subtle, as long as you're obvious about it.
Maybe it was that larcenous little girl, Goldilocks, who said it better than all the artists and philosophers who, even when taking what was not hers, decided she would work her way through everything until she found what was "just right."
What I always loved about Man of the Century was that it knew exactly what it set out to do, and didn't try to lay it on too thick, didn't try to be an epic. It understood the genre it was spoofing, and that those wacky early talkies were rarely very long, and made sure they exited, stage left, before you caught your breath.
"This porridge is too cold," she said.
Johnny Twennies, the lead character, encounters a number of dastardly schemes as he makes his way in cheerful, 1920s style through 1990s New York. Much like those early talkies, and later Ben Hecht* scripts, none of those transgressions are as important as whether or not he gets the girl, and the right girl.
A number of the reviewers discussed the length of the film:
Adam Abraham and Gibson Frazier surely got it just right, not just recycling old lines, but coming up with original snappy dialogue of their own that perfectly fit the style.
"Say, you keep riding me like a streetcar, you're going to have to pay the fare."
They also used it to perfectly play with meaning in modern society. When Johnny rebuffs his girlfriend's advances:
Samantha Winter "Are you gay?"
Luckily, it doesn't, which leads to the second thing the movie got right - Gibson Frazier.
So she sat in the second chair.
"This chair is too big, too," she whined.
So she tried the last and smallest chair.
"Ah,, this chair is just right," she sighed.
As co-writer, Gibson made sure the dialogue fit his character well. Something he and co-writer Abraham also got right, which many young writers get wrong, is having distinct voices for all the characters. Johnny's patter sounds all the more crisp because of the modern, and often profane, language around them. Feel good movies like this are usually afraid to go past PG language, but the writers understood that it was Johnny's contrast to the modern world that made this funny, that if all the characters sounded like him, or were dumbed-down, this is nothing more than a short that runs too long.
Making a feel-good comedy with an assortment of characters that could have come from a Scorsese mob movie is no small feat. Adam and Gibson pulled it off.
Papa bear growled, "Someone's been sleeping in my bed."
"Someone's been sleeping in my bed, too, and she's still there!" exclaimed Baby Bear.
I can watch it again today and thoroughly enjoy it, and I highly recommend it to fans of that style of movie. Give yourself over to a fun ride for 77 minutes. It is available to rent on Netflix, though, sadly, only on DVD and not for online. (Full Disclosure: I don't now, and never have had, profit participation. I was paid just fine on the shoot, so I'm not hawking it for personal gain.)