When I listed Any Questions for Ben? as one of my most anticipated titles of 2012 I had my reasons. The two previous films from the Working Dog production team had become instant favourites and a new project from them, lead by director Rob Sitch and co-writers Sitch, Santo Cilauro and Tom Gleisner, was always going to be high on my radar. A cast of names that I’ve liked plenty in the past and a decidedly pro-Melbourne appearance made me suspect I’d like it. And then came the trailer…
That trailer is a piece of work, isn’t it? Sort of a buzz kill that gave cause for alarm.
The finished product is a bit of curious affair, really. While it’s certainly better than the trailer suggests, it’s hardly up to the standard of their first two features, The Castle and The Dish. Star Josh Lawson (TV’s The Librarians and Chandon Pictures) has a wonderful way with a dry sarcastic turn of phrase as Ben, but it’s the supporting cast that lift the material when it was much needed. Rachael Taylor (Red Dog) continues to be a lovely, personable actor on screen and the film would have been better for keeping she and Lawson together for longer. Daniel Henshall (Snowtown) and especially Felicity Ward (upgraded from day player on Working Dog’s Thank God You’re Here) provide great value for money as Ben’s idealised romantic buddies.
It’s slight and rarely laugh out loud funny–pleasant and occasionally chucklesome is an apt way to describe its loose style–but in the end I found myself smiling along to the proceedings, so I guess that’s a win. It’s an Australian version of a Hollywood romantic comedy (or, as it was introduced to us by Cilauro, “a comedy about romance”) and looks a million bucks (or several), so while perhaps not as sharp and richly developed as I had initially hoped, Any Questions for Ben? fills a niche that goes disturbing unfulfilled by Australian filmmakers.
Any Questions for Ben is released in Australian cinemas on February 9th