SERIOUSLY RED: 2 ½ STARS. “learns the ropes about how to be Dolly and herself.”
In today’s fractured and polarized world there are few inarguable facts. Chief among them is that everybody loves “Jolene” singer and icon Dolly Parton. In our crazy, upside-down universe there is always Dolly, a fact embodied by the character Red (Krew Boylan), a Parton tribute artist and star of the new film “Seriously Red,” now on VOD. “We need more Dollys in the world,” Red says.
When we first meet thirty-something Red she is in a rut. She still lives at home with her mother and is trapped in a dead-end real estate job. Things change when she enters the office talent show, doing an impression of her idol Dolly Parton.
“She’s heartbreaking and she’s a poet,” says Red. “She knows who she is.”
Dolled up as Dolly, she sings “Nine to Five” and is an unexpected hit with her co-workers. Unfortunately, her behavior after the show gets her fired.
Sacked, but filled with confidence, she’s open to new opportunities when talent agent, and booker of tribute artists, Teeth (Celeste Barber) approaches her with an audition. With Dolly words, “If you don’t like the road you’re walking, start paving another one,” echoing ion her head, she aces the try-out. After convincing head honcho and Neil Diamond impersonator (Bobby Cannavale) that she eats, lives and breathes Dolly—“I want to make a living doing this,” she says earnestly. “I feel at home here.”—she is put on tour to play Dolly opposite a Kenny Rogers (Daniel Webber) sound-a-like.
Despite her family’s ridicule—“I managed to be normal while you are off on some wild sequined goose chase,” says her mother ((Jean Kittson).—before you can say “Hello Dolly!” she hits the road and learns the ropes about how to be Dolly and herself.
“Seriously Red” is a feel-good flick set against the backdrop of the ups and downs of show business. Sprinkled with mild laughs throughout, it can’t rightly be called a comedy. Perhaps inspirational character study about the difficulties of “being a diamond in a rhinestone world” is more on the mark. Either way, the engaging performances, including Rose Byrne as an Elvis impersonator, and Boylan, who isn’t afraid to let Red’s rough edges show through, go a long way toward selling the material, which often feels underdeveloped.
It is, I guess, ironic that Red learns how to be her true self while being someone else, but as Dolly, Red discovers that she is more than a blank canvas, that self-acceptance is OK. The movie is a little convoluted, and takes a bit too long to get where it is going, but the ode to embracing one’s own uniqueness is a potent message.