The strange and mysterious world of celebrity impersonators hasn’t been the subject of many films, so it was exciting to dip one’s toes into Seriously Red, a lighthearted Australian comedy about a woman’s journey from obscurity to fame while inhabiting country music’s most beloved icon, Dolly Parton. Directed by Gracie Otto, and penned by its star, Krew Boylan, the movie has its heart in the right place, and it’s fun to watch an ordinary office worker break the mold of her life, while donning tight bejeweled jeans, a fake bosom, and a white wig. You only wish the filmmakers peeked underneath the surface of their story a little further.

Raylene ‘Red’ Delaney (Bolan) is a property adjuster in an office of conventional suits that don’t understand her quirky sensibilities (sometimes, neither do we). She hates her job and talks in fits and starts while spouting off Dolly Parton quotes with a rapid fire staccato. At first, her character is a little jarring, so it’s a relief when we follow her home, where she lives with her mother Viv (Jean Kittson) and hangs out with her best friend Francis (Thomas Campbell). Things at work come to a head when Raylene shows up to a company party dressed as Dolly Parton (she thought it was a costume party) and takes the stage to accept an award for “best office clown.” Instead of crumbling from the humiliation, she breaks into a rendition of “9 to 5,” which garners attention from Teeth (Celeste Barber), who manages a celebrity impersonator company.

The movie is told through an array of Dolly’s inspirational quotes which appear on screen as Raylene embarks on her journey. She soon finds herself at a club filled with other impersonators where she feels right at home. First, she needs to impress the boss, Wilson (Bobby Cannavale), a former Neil Diamond mimic who now takes his acts on the road to stardom, well, mini-stardom. She also needs to steal the spotlight from the club’s MC, an Elvis drag king impersonator (Rose Byrne, who executive produced the movie), who looks more like a creepy wax mannequin from The Twilight Zone than The King. Quickly –way too quickly– Raylene astonishes everyone at the club, including Wilson, who pairs her with his house Kenny Rogers (Daniel Webber) for a tour.

Expectedly, Dolly and Kenny hit it off and move in together. A relationship based on fantasy and sex, they constantly perpetuate their celebrity personas, even when they’re at home relaxing or cooking breakfast in their onstage regalia. It’s just a matter of time when reality seeps into their carefully curated bubbles. When Raylene’s fantasy world implodes, she attempts to find the real Kenny in “Kenny Rogers,” but it might be too late. She also comes to blows with her pal Francis and her mother, both of whom tell her that she’s taken the Dolly act too far. Tonally, these scenes limp along towards some kind of manufactured catharsis. The drama and ensuing life lessons simply aren’t earned, and they feel more tacked on than organic.

Seriously Red is predictable, clunky, and grossly sentimental. But that’s not the issue. The problem is the movie tries to pull us into an existential crisis when you wish it searched for something a little more relatable and honest. As a comedy, it’s just not that funny, and by the time the movie takes a left turn into melodrama, you feel as dissonant and removed as a drunk watching CSPAN. The screenplay skips from beat to beat without immersing us in this unique world of celebrity impersonators. We never get to know anyone. Characters simply flutter in our periphery before disappearing.

Messy or not, there’s still enough here to recommend a blasé Sunday morning watch. Even if it’s not that funny, the movie still exudes an innocent, warm glow. As a director, Gracie Otto keeps the narrative rolling like a juggernaut, and Boylan brings a lot of humanity to a thinly conceived character. And there’s the music, which includes some of Dolly’s best hits. Seriously, “Islands in the Stream” has got to be one of the catchiest tunes ever penned. There are also a few surrealist musical sequences, which are both ambitious and strangely unnecessary. You just wish the whole enterprise were more of a celebration and not some kind of sentient treatise on loving thyself. The whole point of celebrity impersonation is love, isn’t it? Love for the music, the artists, and the sheer glory of entertainment. If your friends and family don’t get it, so what? If there’s a danger in losing yourself in something you love instead of a dead-end office gig, so be it. Dolly would probably agree.













































































































































































































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