To go by the 30 minutes following the premiere of “How to Be a Man” in which the film’s star Gavin McInnes took the opportunity of the post-screening Q & A to opine on everything from the unpleasant cacophony of New York City to the uselessness of condoms to the obvious delight of the crowd, it would be easy to think all Chadd Harbold had to do was put a camera on him and he’d have something entertaining.
And although “How to Be a Man” is clearly built around McInnes’ brusque, unfiltered persona, Harbold and co-writer Bryan Gaynor don’t forget to make an actual movie around him, creating something as satisfying storywise as it is raucously funny. It’s true with McInnes onhand, “How to Be a Man” doesn’t need much prologue, but the setup is both simple and effective, introducing McInnes as Mark McCarthy, an expectant father who decides to film life lessons for his kid after deducing that he’s contracted male breast cancer.
However, with the anxiety of both birth and death looming, his education coincides with a mental breakdown, pushing him back into all of his worst habits before being domesticated, resulting in such lessons as how to take heroin and picking up random chicks at the bar (while still married). Although the increasingly erratic and insane behavior all but ensure these video diaries will never be passed on to his next of kin, Mark does have an obvious effect on his uptight 22-year-old videographer Bryan (Liam Aiken), who doesn’t have much experience in the ways of the world, much less the underworld Mark reenters, and his bad behavior threatens to sink them both.
“How to Be a Man” doesn’t shy away from showing each one of Mark’s ill-advised tutorials in all of their perverse glory and with a leading man who doesn’t hesitate to pull out his junk at a moment’s notice and an affection for graphic verbal descriptions of every bodily emission imaginable, it isn’t a film for those who prefer their humor high-minded. Yet it’s considerably smarter than its facade of fart jokes would imply, particularly cunning in the way it places McInnes, a naturally engaging presence if not necessarily a natural actor, in a position to let loose while still going in the right direction.
In his first leading role in a feature, the co-founder of “Vice” is given plenty of room to rant, including one especially showstopping sermon about properly executing cunnilingus. But what’s more impressive is how McInnes is revealed to be a bit of a softy, both in his easy rapport with Aiken and in conveying a certain innocence about imparting such potentially hazardous pearls of wisdom without a hint of antipathy or guile.
Instead, it’s Harbold who keeps things mean and lean, sprinting through the film’s relatively brisk 90-minute running time. While the story hits a bunch of familiar notes — not that the filmmakers are unaware with numerous characters bringing up “that Michael Keaton movie [‘My Life’]” as a touchstone for Mark’s quest — the go-for-broke attitude of the entire endeavor keeps an audience on its toes nonetheless, a necessity when keeping up with a madman like McInnes.
“How to Be a Man” does not yet have a release date.