Seriously Red Movie

Seriously Red: Movie Review

Review by: Stacey O’Carroll


Director: Gracie Otto

Writer: Krew Boylan

Available: iTunes, Fetch, Amazon Prime, Google Play, Telstra TV Box Office.


“Find out who you are and do it on purpose.” Dolly Parton.


What do Dolly Parton, Celeste Barber, and wigs have in common? They all appear in director Gracie Otto’s new Australian film Seriously Red.

Seriously Red is a comedy-drama written by and starring Krew Boylan as the Dolly Parton-obsessed Red. We quickly learn that Red (Boylan) is struggling to accept her own identity, cannot hold down a job, is living in her mother, Viv’s (Jean Kittson) converted garage and is prone to unusual or inappropriate behaviour. That is until she becomes a professional Dolly Parton impersonator.

Boylan is fantastic as the complex and flawed Red. However, Red can be a polarising protagonist whose terrible treatment of family and friends makes it hard to sympathise with her behaviour.

One of Seriously Red’s strengths is the cameos and supporting cast, which quickly becomes a game of “oh, look who is playing themselves.” However, some of Red’s (Boylan) relationships with Red (Boylan) were not clearly defined, which became distracting. For example, at almost half the film’s runtime do we finally understand that Francis (Thomas Campbell) is her childhood best friend, not her brother, partner, or husband. The same goes for Gramps (Tony Barry), who looked more like Viv’s (Kittson) husband than her father. Barry’s screen time was underwhelming and barely showed his wonderful comedic talent. However, a few weeks after I watched Seriously Red, Barry sadly passed away, which turned this film into a lovely last appearance for an exceptionally talented and much-loved actor.

Standout performances came from Rose Byrne’s performance as E.P., which demonstrates her adaptability and hints back to her complex breakout role in Two Hands (1998), and Bobby Cannavale highly entertaining Neil Diamond. With a solid comedic cast such as Celeste Barber (as Teeth) and Kittson (as Viv), one wonders why the film tries to take itself far too seriously at times or descends into the completely bizarre.

The production design, cinematography and direction all stylistically take cues from the heyday of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers, down to the sometimes-disruptive star wipes and filters. It is clear from the beautiful retro-rainbow sets that the production design team enjoyed their trip back in time. Their craft is displayed in Viv’s bright, colour-coordinated kitchen shelves, which reflect an interesting complexity to her characterisation that is not too far from her daughters. Credit must also be given to the talented makeup and costuming crew for their realistic creations that gave validity to the cast of impersonators.

The cast and crew clearly enjoyed making the film, though the bloopers made the audience laugh more than the movie. Though I enjoy dark comedies or comedy-dramas, Seriously Red fails to balance its complex themes with the humour required to carry out such a fun premise. I wanted to laugh more. Boylan and Otto try hard to deliver the film’s socio-political and feminist themes, which at times make for uncomfortable viewing. For example, the reversed crotch-grabbing scene felt out of place and distanced the audience.

The film’s message of letting your inner you shine works well, and ties into the film’s overall theme, but the final scene felt forced, cliched and unbelievable. Seriously Red is an enjoyable escape, but Dolly Parton’s soundtrack will linger longer than the forgettable storyline.