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Australia 2008
Directed by
Rhian Skirving
89 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Rock N Roll Nerd

Synopsis: A documentary charting the rise and rise of Tim Minchin, a Melbourne-based writer and performer of blackly comedic songs.

Tim who? Well might you ask. Tim Minchin is a successful comedian whose format of choice is witty social commentary songs in the Tom Lehrer mode, updated, of course, to today’s ironically despairing and deferentially angst-ridden times. Three years ago he was just another struggling wannabe but after a last ditch tilt at fame with a self-produced solo show at the 2005 Melbourne International Comedy Festival, miraculously he cracked the comedy big time, the Edinburgh Arts Festival when Scots talent scout and producer, Karen Koren, invited him to perform there. After the most successful first season of any performer in the history of the festival, Tim took out the prestigious Perrier Newcomer Award and in a relatively short space of time, was appearing in his own show in London’s West End. So, for those who didn’t know, that’s Tim Michin.

Rhian Skirving’s fly-on-the-wall documentary tracks his subject’s meteoric zero-to-hero rise, devoting most of the running time to the behind-the-scenes mundanity of the process but inserting enough of Tim’s stage performances to show us that he is a talented song-writer, musician and entertainer. Needless to say it is the talent that sustains the success but Rock N Roll Nerd is less about Minchin’s work than the man himself and in this respect it has a genuinely interesting subject– articulately introspective with a streak of near-manic extroversion – an intriguingly conflicted personality with a charmingly sceptical sensibility, someone who seems far too intelligent for the world of showbiz yet for some inexplicable reason is fatally attracted by it. This material is something in itself but equally important to the success of the film is that Skirving, who is a friend of the comedian, has been given a warts-and-all license by Minchin, and by his wife, Sarah. The result is a marvellously candid insight into artistic ambition - from Minchin getting a John Cooper Clarke style make-over in order to lose his blandly suburban image. to his petulant confusion when he is passed over for the leading Perrier award at Edinburgh. Even his wife participates in the spirit of the film as we follow her into the early throes of labour as she prepares to give birth to their first child.

Efficiently shot on digital betacam, there is nothing flash about Rock N Roll Nerd but this is the exactly right treatment for its subject and one which makes it easy for us to empathize with Tim as he goes where few of us would ever have the courage to in pursuit of our dreams. Bravo Mr Minchin, and bravo Mr Skirving




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