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Australia 1997
Directed by
Chris Kennedy
95 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars

Doing Time For Patsy Cline

Doing Time For Patsy Cline is a refreshingly different blackish comedy that has a lot of fun with rural Australia's fondness for American country and western music. Despite having elements that appeal, however, it doesn't really gel into an effective whole.

An original script by director Kennedy, who picked up a number of commendations including a "Special Achievement Award" at The San Diego International Film Festival, a stylishly look provided by ace lensman, Andrew Lesnie (he won that year's AFI Award for cinematography), and appealing performances by the three principals, Matt Day, Miranda Otto and Richard Roxburgh, each in their own way, make for an entertaining, albeit overly slow-moving, story about a New South Wales farm boy, Ralph (Day), who dreams of making it big in Nashville,Tennessee and whose plans are waylaid when he meets an eccentric couple.

It’s not easy to pin down exactly where the film goes astray but as I kept wondering how much better it would have been had the Coen brother written and directed it I assume the problem is somewhere in there, the film’s premise overall needing both more freewheeling absurdity and polish in its treatment than Kennedy achieves.

In this respect Ralph, much as he is supposed to be a callow youth is not particularly interesting and Patsy, sweet as she may be seems too artificially so. Only Roxburgh, who won a Best Actor AFI Award, carries off his role with panache.  Compensating for this somewhat the support characters, all well-steeped in the Antipodean vernacular, are amusing notably the character of Ralph's Dad, played by Roy Billing and a trio of scurvy bad’uns, led by Tony Barry's Dwayne, with very limited musical talent.

Overall, particularly given the subject matter, the musical interludes should have been better handled, the reiteration of the same song, ‘Red,Red Roses’, getting a little wearing.  It is however the editing which constantly and seemingly arbitrarily hops between the film's two time frames which stops proceedings from coming together.  It is only at film's end that one understands what has been going on.

Despite not entirely realizing its potential Doing Time For Patsy Cline is a stylish production and worth an honourable mention.




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