The reality television era is clearly influencing the documentary genre. At this year’s Hot Docs, several films have felt closer to an episode of “unscripted” reality television than a standard documentary. Director Colm Quinn’s Mattress Men is the perfect example of a film that hits all the same beats as a well-paced drama. Regardless of how “unscripted” Mattress Men is, it’s still a gripping piece of storytelling.
Mattress Mick is kind of a big deal — his quirky online persona is a viral sensation. Despite Ireland’s floundering economy, Mick’s popular ads attract a steady stream of customers into his shop. Mick’s employee, Paul, is an underemployed husband and father who desperately wants to land a full time position at the mattress shop — Paul also happens to be the mastermind behind the Mattress Mick sensation. The Mattress Men follows Paul as he strives to leverage his marketing savvy into full-time work.
Mattress Men’s premise has a timeless quality to it. Paul is an affable knucklehead who fate keeps dealing bad hands. He believes that all he needs is one shot to turn his fortunes around. Sound familiar? Paul’s struggle bears a striking resemblance to plot of 1976’s classic underdog story, Rocky.
While watching the film, it’s hard to shake the feeling that someone is behind the scenes pulling strings; life is too chaotic for random events to fall in place and form such a compelling narrative. Even with its reality show vibe, Mattress Men is an engaging and uplifting film featuring an underdog you can’t help but root for.