A gagman on a personal and professional bummer is the anti-hero of a character study with just the right mix of laughs and soul-searching drama in “Roy Hollsdotter Live.” Writer-director Matthew Saville was honored with the Australian Writer’s Guild award for best original screenplay and his crack script is matched by mature, finely-tuned direction. Fest and quality small screen exposure look likely.
Roy (Darren Casey) has been wowing ’em at a Melbourne cabaret venue, but the wheels have fallen off since the departure of g.f. Cate (Asher Keddie). Peppering the act with bitter personal reflections isn’t impressing stony-faced audiences, and signals from club owner Mike (John Clarke) suggest Roy’s tenure looks tenuous at best.
Worse still, the crestfallen comic has taken to heavy boozing and positioning himself in a greasy spoon diner each night, obsessively photographing his ex as she drives by.
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Roy’s far from lovable, but he’s believable at every turn. Whether cracking a tough crowd with a vintage routine or self-imploding with a diatribe in front of the next night’s clientele, there’s credibility to the character — and sheer bravado inspires sympathy for the mess he’s in.
Casey’s dynamic perf is the axis about which the carefully structured and rewarding narrative revolves. The symbiotic relationship of Roy and best mate Simmo (Luke Elliot, also terrific) packs strong emotional punch, and confrontations between Cate and her lover-turned-stalker propel events in dark and unpredictable directions.
Bitchy banter from backstage types adds welcome notes of acidic humor.
Tech credits are all top-drawer on limited budget. Standout is d.p Laszlo Baranya’s stark, observational close-ups of Roy’s weary face and moody lighting in smoky nightclub and grungy cafe habitats. Shot on digi-tape, images on small screen are almost indistinguishable from film, and won the pic the Australian Cinematographer Society award for best telefeature.