The bellowing TV salesman – sometimes a "King", often "mad" – was a staple of public- access television long before YouTube made broadcasters of us all. No domestic show-off does it more oddly than Michael "Mattress Mick" Flynn.
The joke, of course, is that he's very much not a suave American huckster. Grey hair distressed like Bride of Frankenstein in a wind tunnel, each tooth finding angles unknown to Euclid, Mick is just bad enough to make his videos cult classics.
Colm Quinn could have had a lot of cheap fun with a documentary on the divan flogger. There are, indeed, a great many laughs to be had in his charming film. The unendingly plucky Brian Traynor – who, dressed as an ambulatory mattress, badgers potential punters outside the Dublin warehouse – offers a diverting chorus throughout the film.
The promotional videos – featuring awful raps and dire parodies of Back to the Future – deserve the camp status they've accrued among people who have no interest in buying beds.
Quinn has, however, made the focus of his film a very humane story about poverty, ambition and everyday struggle. As the film tells it, Mick's media strategy is the creation of the determined Paul Kelly. Fighting to keep his family together in inner-city Dublin, juggling video gigs with the dole, Kelly walks us through a tough life lived under the constant shadow of debt.
One strand of the film addresses creative tensions between Mick and Paul: the boss quite correctly vetoes plans for an excess of dolly birds in one video; Paul argues for tolerable production standards. Another sub-strand concerns a slick rival edging into the operation.
All narrative lines are connected by a larger arc concerning Paul’s quest for an official contract that will get him off “the social”.
It is here that the film’s few problems lie. That structured movement towards a cherished objective feels too ordered and too contrived. Real life rarely has the beginnings, middles and (crucially) ends we expect from a romantic comedy.
None of which is to suggest anything depicted here didn't happen. Mattress Men feels like an essential snapshot of an ignored urban sector. Buy, buy, buy before all the tickets are gone!