Crying With Laughter

Crying With Laughter

****

Reviewed by: Scott Macdonald

Stephen McCole - a performer for whom the term "character actor" was likely invented - delivers a terrific, star-making turn as Joey Frisk, a stand-up comedian on the verge of hitting his big break. Onstage, he's a charismatic and thorougly confident bastard, offstage, he's a coke-snorting and fast-living broken mess of a family man. Onstage, he makes a crack about an old schoolmate, Frank - played with both scenery-chewing gusto, and highly skilled character-building by Malcolm Shields. Of course, the ex-military and sociopathic Frank is in the audience, and post-gig, reintroduces himself.

After a drunken night, where his perpetually pissed-off landlord is hospitalised, Joey's life collapses around him, after being fingered by Frank in a police line-up. His only saviour, is Frank - who stealthily integrates himself in Joey's life.

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The whole film is structured as a story told as part of Joey's stand-up routine - this in itself probably gives much of the guessable plot away, which isn't much. Like most great storytelling, what comes of it seems both surprising, and strangely inevitable. What is their connection? How does Frank hold all the keys to Joey's life? The often shocking story never betrays our emotional investment in it - thanks to rich exposition and challenging performances from the two leads.

Much of the plot reads as a barely tempered collection of clich├ęs, but in the hands of writer/director Justin Molotnikov, and McCole's runaway success, it becomes a highly effective character study and a well-constructed psychological thriller. Secrets unravel, repressed memories explode and the film clips along at an energetic pace, never flagging. It is also marvellously photographed by Martin Radich, capturing Edinburgh with its winding streets, stunning architecture and alleys in clever ways that engage beautifully.

It's a rather wonderful black comedy, and makes an equally welcome change from the usual parochial bilge served up by the Scottish film industry and festivals. A polished little gem - seek it out.

Reviewed on: 11 Mar 2010
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Black comedy about a comedian whose past is unearthed.
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Director: Justin Molotnikov

Writer: Justin Molotnikov

Starring: Stephen McCole, Malcolm Shields, Andrew Neil, Jo Hartley, Niall Greig Fulton

Year: 2009

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: UK


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