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ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT

Any Questions for Ben?

What's your definition of success - rebranding vodka, selling billboards, or bedding Melbourne's leggiest models?
By Hilary Simmons
February 06, 2012
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By Hilary Simmons
February 06, 2012
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Any Questions for Ben is much better than it sounds, and it sounds pretty good. Ben (Josh Lawson) returns to his old school to speak at a careers night, smugly sure that his success as a “strategic brands consultant” will be well-received by scores of students. After all, at 27, he’s already ticked all the obvious boxes: he’s got money, mates, a sweet pad in Melbourne, and sex on tap with Melbourne’s leggiest models.
Still, there’s nothing like seeing his high school crush Alex (Rachel Taylor), now a United Nations lawyer, talk about international aid work to suddenly make rebranding vodka and selling billboards seem kinda meaningless. Even worse, the high school students are conspicuously under-awed by Ben. None of them ask him how they, too, can achieve success in advertising. Ben starts to fret that he’s all style, no substance – what exactly is a “strategic brands consultant” anyway? He free-falls into a quarter-life crisis.

This film, the third full-length feature from Frontline’s Rob Sitch and rookie Australian production company Working Dog, is not without its flaws. Many of the romantic scenes misfire due to a total lack of fizz between Lawson and Taylor (possibly, while we’re being shallow, due to the hideous shoes worn by Taylor in a crucial romantic scene). It’s a love letter to Melbourne that occasionally feels like it was commissioned by the Victorian Tourism Board, and quite frankly, Ben’s life never seems all that bad. Skiing in New Zealand, dating Russian tennis stars, and short-term stints in high-paying jobs? Oh Ben, stop moaning and enjoy the clichéd ride.

It’s saved, however, by the strong supporting cast and the fact that it never claims to be anything other than shallow — after all, that’s what the storyline’s all about. Ben’s dawn of realisation is well drawn, and although the film could be shorter, it’s funny, irreverent, and may make you question: well, what’s your own definition of success? Perhaps the opening card, quoting Ernest Hemingway's warning not to confuse motion with action, sums Ben’s journey and this film up best.

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