Gary Shand (Glen Maney) is a struggling stand-up comedian. Short on cash, late on rent and continually screwed over by his manager and club promoter, Gary’s life is further complicated by his ex-wife’s decision to move away with their two children, whom Gary barely sees and can’t relate to anymore anyway. Stuck in a loop of pub-hopping, increasingly horrible stand-up gigs and thoughts of suicide, Gary’s life is going nowhere fast. Each day becomes just another in a series of opportunities to finally hit rock bottom… and we, the audience, are along to watch the decline.
On the technical side of things, filmmaker and star Glen Maney’s The Limelight is a bit of mess. While the composition and picture is solid enough, the sound recording is often sub-par and hard to hear. That, coupled with a musical score that is sometimes right on and other times out-of-place or goofy, can make for a challenging aural experience. On top of that, while aspects of the film work with a strange rhythm to the edit, that editing style doesn’t always sustain itself and scenes start to feel disconnected and/or repetitive.
So as to not focus entirely on the negative, however, the best part of the film occurs about an hour into the film when a new, abrasive bartender arrives at the pub Gary frequents most often. The bartender’s violently aggressive behavior is a welcome change-up to the pace of the rest of the film, and considering how sad sack Gary has become, the scene winds up saying everything that the audience may be thinking about the character at that point. Because there’s only so much anyone can take, and the bartender gives full vent to that exasperation.
See, the major problem with the film, beyond the previously mentioned tech issues, is that, for the majority of the film, it doesn’t go anywhere. Gary is a loser, who talks and talks and talks about changing his life, or committing suicide, or this that or the other thing, but little actually changes. He’s usually back at the bar drinking, or generally sad sacking his way through life. With no real character arc, there’s little reason to root for or even stay interested in Gary’s plight. Instead it’s just a sad decline, over and over again. It gets exhausting to watch. By the time a twist comes in the final 20 minutes, I was only still engaged in order to see where it all ended, though I could care less exactly how that happened.
Basically, The Limelight is a lot of hit or miss, with more miss than hit. While it has funny moments in it, it is less a dark comedy and more an overwhelmingly depressing portrait of a failed life that eventually you can’t help but laugh at somewhat. Simply, the misery in the film is so palpable, it’s hard not to be put off by it.
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