Seriously Red, 2023.
Directed by Gracie Otto.
Starring Krew Boylan, Daniel Webber, Celeste Barber, Thomas Campbell, Jean Kittson, Bobby Cannavale, Rose Byrne, Todd Lasance, Wayne Blair, Sarah Su, Tony Barry, Sophia Forrest, and Nell Campbell.
Raylene ‘Red’ Delaney trades her nine-to-five career in real estate for a life under the spotlight as a Dolly Parton impersonator. A romantic liaison with Kenny Rogers then occurs while her tumultuous journey continues, full of fake hair and artificial boobs.
In the world of celebrity impersonators, Red (Krew Boylan, also serving as the screenwriter, which explains away some of the more personal aspects) is obsessed with mimicking Dolly Parton. To the same degree, in Seriously Red, director Gracie Otto also has a relentless fixation on Dolly Parton, dropping screen graphic quotations as frequently as other filmmakers drop chapter title cards, not to mention an overreliance on licensed music that forces viewers to listen to “Jolene” an obscene amount of times.
Following a night of sexual misconduct weirdly played for laughs (and a more serious intimate encounter with a gender-bending Elvis Presley impersonator played by Rose Byrne, of all people, also on board as an executive producer), Red is let go from her realtor job, and decides to use the bad luck is an opportunity to plunge headfirst into chasing her dream of becoming a prominent, revered Dolly Parton impersonator.
There’s not much to go on for Red’s insistence on the specific choice of Dolly Parton other than a childhood fixation, the quotes, and the songs, but it doesn’t necessarily matter since Krew Boylan is interested in something deeper.
Red’s mom Viv (Jean Kittson), thinks this is a childish and pointless endeavor and that her daughter should focus on getting a real job and a romantic partner. Cue longtime friend Francis (Thomas Campbell), who does support Red while pretending to be in a relationship together as she finds her footing in the greater world of imitator concerts, taken under the wing of a once-upon-a-time Neil Diamond impersonator played by Bobby Cannavale.
Meanwhile, Red also gets into an intense fling with a successful and moderately wealthy Kenny Rogers impersonator (Daniel Webber) who is so committed to the bit that he has no personality or character to call his own, which fascinates Red for the wrong reasons.
There’s nothing wrong with becoming someone else for one’s amusement or putting on a show, but eventually, an entire identity can be lost (one of the only points the movie makes decently.) Simultaneously, Francis does encourage Red, pushing her to become more than a generic Impressionist, which she also misinterprets as a suggestion to get breast implants that more closely resemble the actual Dolly Parton.
Buried underneath the amateur-hour lighting, cartoonishly exaggerated performances, and painfully unfunny slapstick humor, such as part of Red’s getting set on fire before a performance (which, oddly enough, does have something to do with the greater theme of the narrative), are lessons about being yourself and embracing your physical appearance for what it looks like.
The problem is that Seriously Red spends over an hour drawing the titular character as a deeply unlikable person that misses the point of every single Dolly Parton quote she throws out into the world while pushing away her friends and family, including her mom, that happens to be comfortable in her skin.
There are genuinely thoughtful visual parallels here, portraying how different daughter and mom are when in their birthday suit. Characters also body shame one another, which doesn’t help the decision-making on display. Other characters are much more accepting of what’s there to the body of someone they care about.
Seriously Red is also a film that misguidedly explores this whole theme, at one point breaking into a song-and-dance number during breast implant surgery. As such, when the narrative is finally trying to explore these topics seriously, it feels unearned, forced, and shallow, all despite how important it is to Krew Boylan as a person. There’s also the issue that it’s not funny at all. It’s seriously bad.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com