Dir/scr Justin Molotnikov. UK. 2009. 93mins.
Justin Molotnikov makes a decent case with his debut feature, a thriller of sorts about a misanthropic Edinburgh stand-up comedian who becomes embroiled with a sinister ex-classmate. Technically-assured, Crying With Laughter starts involvingly enough, but the veers out of Molotnikov’s grasp, dissipating hard-earned dramatic tension as it backs itself into implausibility.
What this feature will be remembered for, however, is a compelling, confident performance from Stephen McCole as the addled stand-up: it is a real breakthrough moment for the actor in a noticeably well-written part.
This film is easy on the eye despite an evidently small budget
Crying With Laughter could find a small theatrical audience at home in Scotland, followed by UK ancillaries, particularly TV. Elsewhere, it’s a good calling card for the director and his cast and crew. McCole’s performance should draw some press and possible inquiries about remake rights.
McCole plays Joey Frisk, an acerbic, foul-mouthed Edinburgh stand-up comedian with a booze and pill problem, an angry ex-wife and six-year-old daughter, and a landlord he despises. Joey’s life is increasingly out-of-control, not helped by the fact that he seems compelled to eviscerate any friends he has left whenever he’s onstage.
A seemingly chance meeting with an old schoolfriend, Frank (Shields), reveals that Joey’s alcohol problem has roots in their shared past in a borstal school. Frank begins to insinuate himself into Joey’s life, creating a situation whereby Joey is suspected by the police of beating up his landlord.
While Joey is a fully-fledged, memorable character, Crying With Laughter is conflicted when it comes to Frank, and this poses dramatic problems which Molotnikof can’t quite overcome. Having set the film up as a thriller, Molotnikof moves into TV-drama land at mid-point and becomes mired in an unconvincing morality tale.
Technically, this film is easy on the eye despite an evidently small budget; standouts are night-time interiors shot in Joey’s club.
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