Directed by Mark Lamprell
Written by Mark Lamprell, Joanna Weinberg
Starring Laura Michelle Kelly, Ronan Keating, Magda Szubanski
I have to say I wasn’t exactly looking forward to this. I usually reserve this level of cinematic ambivalence for Michael Bay and Marvel films but when it pops up on your list of things to do, you do the dutiful thing, boot up, ship out, grab a large latte and, well, just hope it isn’t as dreadful as you suspect it might be.
If you’re a fan of musical theatre (and who isn’t, by crikey?!) then there is a possibility you might be familiar with this already, adapted as it was from Joanna Weinberg’s original stage show Sinksongs, the semi-autobiographical story of Elspeth, a wannabe star who is forced to shelve her dreams in order to raise her twin boys and make a home for them and her husband James (played by ex-Boyzone frontman, Ronan Keating).Elspeth and James hatched a plan a few years ago. She would stay at home until the kids were old enough to go to school, and then James would take over, allowing her to fulfil her seemingly avaricious need for recognition, bright lights, fancy glam dresses and wads of dirty cash. Nothing wrong with dreaming though, right? In the meantime, however, that means domestic bliss and potty training in the middle of nowhere, with no friends or family nearby and only the company are the two faces of evil, masquerading as innocent babes, in the form of her children. It would drive anyone to drink.
When James is about to leave for another long stint away from home with work, listening to whales chat, he leaves Elspeth with a webcam so they can see each other when he is away (nudge, nudge). So after he leaves, she goes about setting the thing up and tries, without success, to get hold of her husband offshore on his boat, where all of the alleged whale spying is taking place. Instead, she moves the webcam to a potted plant shelf in front of her sink, where she starts to broadcast songs that highlight how hard she has it, slaving away on domestic chores and generally not having any fun.And as any fledgling youtuber will tell you, the first steps are the hardest. She gets the grand figure of zero people watching her. But with the help of local supermarket shelf-stacker and all round PC networking genius, Neil (Cameron Lyon), she eventually begins to garner a little bit of interest. Her songs from the sink are upbeat, catchy affairs and replete with inventive and entertaining dance routines.
And if anything, the infectious nature of the songs are the main draw, not overlooking the massive visual and aural appeal of the sweetly pretty Laura Michelle Kelly, plus the potential of her rags to riches story, dressed up in a ‘should she, shouldn’t she’ moral nail-biter that asks the audience the very pointed question of ‘what would you do?’
As she becomes more and more popular, she enlists an agent (or rather the agent enlists Elspeth), the larger than life Cassandra (Magda Szubanski) who is a ball-breaking no-nonsense businesswoman. The very ‘corporate bitch’ that Elspeth has already sung about by the time we meet her.
As a movie it is very cheesy, what musical isn’t, but this no doubt stems from the nature of the stageplay. Naturally, there are elements of this that are enhanced by the adaptation to the screen, not least the pleasing, colourful choreography and also the shots that simply could not be reproduced on a stage. The performances from Kelly and Keating are, if we’re honest, surprisingly refreshing and very likeable. The acting isn’t always that subtle, but if you’re going to watch this, then subtle probably isn’t what you’re after anyway.
As a story, it’s interesting enough in its own right. Can a mother-of-two rightfully expect to be able to have a stellar career and still remain a mother? Does our society allow or even encourage this type of wilful behaviour? Do Elspeth’s decisions mean she is worth more or less to the people around her and finally, what is the most valuable commodities of a life fully lived? All of these questions are raised and mostly answered in a cavalcade of song and dance that will have you tapping your feet and humming along without you even realising it. I loved the songs so much, I downloaded the soundtrack less than five minutes after the end credits. Yes, it is lacking cinematic merit, it’s far from subtle and it is a musical. Get over yourself and enjoy it for what it is. Kudos to those that had the audacity to make it and I hope we get another one. This is simply the most enjoyable surprise I’ve had so far this year. And no, I’m still not gay, despite what every male fan of showtunes may tell you.
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