Michael Keaton makes his directorial debut in The Merry Gentleman, a tale about two kindred spirits who meet by chance and find their budding friendship transform into one of necessity and survival. But with two haunting pasts and an unpredictable future, both must learn that in order to move-on, they must first know when to let go.
Set amidst the quiet, calm landscapes of winter-time Chicago, the film carries a serene, almost lacking quality. But as you watch the story unfold, you find that the background scenery plays up the feelings and emotions of both our lead characters. The dark colors and eerie, gloomy set pieces personify their internal struggles, making you better connect with them as they attempt to sort out their lives and understand their place within this vast world.
Kelly MacDonald stars as Katie Frazier, a kind-hearted woman who finds herself in the middle of a violent relationship. Wanting to free herself from the grips of hell, Katie runs away, hoping for a better life in Chicago. There, under a weird set of circumstances, she is 'discovered' by Frank Logan (Michael Keaton), a down on his luck killer-for-hire who has recently slipped into a suicidal-depression.
Independently, both MacDonald and Keaton give brilliant performances. Their somber tone and hesitant delivery make for a series of awkward encounters, personifying the internal struggles they both are working to overcome. But the film doesn't hit full stride until the two finally meet. It is then that we get to see both work their roles perfectly, hesitantly gearing up for a possible courtship, but neither knowing if they are ready to move into such a lasting possibility. Their hesitation is felt from miles around as you watch their placid relationship build. They are slow moving, too slow at times. However, in the end, it is that which makes the film a unique and classic look at friendship, love and the art of peaceful courtship.
In the end, The Merry Gentleman is not for everyone. The plot does tend to drag, especially when Katie and her cop/stalker meet up for dinner on two seperate occasions. However, if you are able to look past that and see the beauty and placidity of the whole situation, you will understand that though hidden, the emotions of both Katie and Frank make this film real and everlasting.