'Lawrence & Holloman' is the dark and twisted story of a cynical and suicidal accounting clerk (Holloman) who gets taken under the wing of a happy-go-lucky, ever-optimistic suit salesman (Lawrence).
In this beautifully dark and sometimes downright creepy movie, we find a character who wants to die and another who is so annoying you wish you could give him a little push into the great beyond.
Matthew Kowalchuk, who directed and co-wrote the script with Daniel Arnold, serves us this story based on the play by Canadian Morris Panych in the bleakest of landscapes. The department store, office cubicles, apartments and even elevators provide the depressing backdrop that one character in particular wears like a second skin.
Daniel Arnold plays Holloman, a suicidal accounting clerk who’s every waking moment is seemingly a disaster that only suicide can cure. It’s hard to believe things could get any worse than that, but they do when a too optimistic to be believed suit salesman named Lawrence takes him under his wing.
With a permanent goofy-ass smile glued to his face, Lawrence (played by Ben Cotton) lives the charmed life of the idiot who succeeds in spite of himself. Everything about him cries out asshole, from the annoying bluetooth headset in his ear to thinking he is god’s gift to women and his profound ability to make a sale.
Of course, his happy little life is turned upside down when the bad karma that surrounds Holloman starts to rub off on Lawrence himself. Soon, things not only go from bad to worse but we see a sort of role reversal as Holloman regains some confidence and dignity while Lawrence gets the proverbial boot to the ass day after day.
The movie ends on perhaps its darkest and finest moment, reminding people that no matter how bad things get, they can always go even horribly (and in this case, hilariously) worse.
Making a dark comedy like this is no easy task, and full marks must go to the director, writers and cast for pulling it off. They all throw themselves into the task at hand with that wonderful abandon that makes the movie wonderful to watch.
The settings also reflect the characters using drab colors, depressing office spaces and the creepy atmosphere that only a department store can provide. It almost seems like both characters and environment are meant for one another including the wonderful suits worn by both Holloman and Lawrence.
Actor Ben Cotton initially plays Lawrence like a jackrabbit on speed, bounding through his day without a care in the world because he knows somehow, everything will work out. It is a great performance that is only amplified by the physical body contortions he throws in for good measure. As we watch his luck switch from good to bad, you almost feel sorry for him.
In many ways, playing opposite this character must have been very demanding. Daniel Arnold, who plays Holloman, must be the polar opposite and suppress all glee and joy and instead focus totally on making his character so depressing that you yourself want to go and buy a gun. To make it even harder he has to look at Cotton, who is playing Lawrence so over the top it must have been hard not to laugh.
The only real joy we initially see from Holloman is in his hidden affections for the lingerie clerk played with some zany zeal by the wonderful Katharine Isabelle. In the end, even that blows up in Holloman’s face in an ironic twist somehow fitting his bad luck.
Director Matthew Kowalchuk is the man in charge of keeping some order in this chaos. A dark comedy like this can easily go overboard one way or the other and for the most part he keeps things balanced. (Well, as balanced as things can be when you are dealing with a subject like this.)
There are many great moments where Kowalchuk spends just a few extra seconds on a face so you can watch anguish set in as it all hits the fan. It may only be a facial tick or some shifty eye movement, but many times it helps convey the chaos these characters were going through.
It also struck me that some of the funnier moments in the film, the ones I shouldn’t have been laughing at but was, were things that you could actually see happen in real life. I mean how many of us have worked a crappy job and watched as a moron sailed through his days with nothing but smiles and good fortune following him around? A lot, I would bet.
My only criticism of the movie was some moments in the film seem a little too drawn out. Most of the movie moves at a crisp pace but at times scenes were extended to the point that the momentum began to slow, replaces with an unnecessary need to get too serious.
I am happy to say that in the end, it was dark comedic bliss. If you are looking for something soft and romantic, you best spend your valuable time elsewhere. However, if you like you comedy served in the dark recess of the soul, this is one movie you won’t want to miss.
+ Excellent performances by Daniel Arnold and Ben Cotton
+ Solid writing and directing
+ Visually the movie looks excellent and is a perfect companion for the actors
- Some scenes of dialogue are too long and slow down the momentum of the movie