Watching Man About Town—a direct-to-DVD Ben Affleck vehicle about the profound existential angst of a hotshot Hollywood agent married to a supermodel—it's easy to imagine a studio executive listening to the pitch from writer-director Mike Binder and thinking "Wow. That sounds great. I know a dozen people just like the lead character." Audiences outside the narcissistic bubble of the film industry will find Affleck's character familiar for different, less-flattering reasons. He embodies two common cinematic types: the sycophantic, unscrupulous agent, and the slick overachiever humbled by a punishing gauntlet of rejection and humiliation. Alas, Hollywood's hunger for navel-gazing projects exposing its anxieties and obsessions far outstrips the public's appetite for such films, as evidenced by the paltry box-office returns of most Hollywood satires, and the burial of movies like Man About Town.
Affleck plays a superficial man in the midst of a mid-life crisis. His gorgeous wife, Rebecca Romijn, is cheating on him with television mogul Adam Goldberg, who also happens to be a star client. Affleck's personal journal has fallen into the hands of a kooky aspiring screenwriter (Bai Ling) intent on blackmailing him. Meanwhile, Ling's muscle-bound beau subjects Affleck to a vicious beat-down as retribution for years of blithely ignoring wannabes on the outer fringes of show business. In an attempt to better understand writers and the inner workings of his own psyche, Affleck takes a journal-writing class, where a scene-stealing John Cleese doles out advice and abuse in roughly equal quantities.
Binder (The Upside Of Anger) animates the proceedings with a slickly forgettable mixture of sitcom banter, soap operatics, and touchy-feely therapy talk that suggests he was drawing inspiration from weekly trips to the analyst's couch. The film's disparate strains come together in a clattering farcical climax, but precious little seems to be at stake. It's hard to imagine Affleck's evolution from glib, superficial slickster to slightly less glib, mildly reflective slickster having much resonance for anyone outside the greater Los Angeles area.
Key features: A few deleted scenes and substance-free making-of featurettes.