It’s a tough life out there for a Dolly Parton impersonator; as the song goes, it’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it. Played by Krew Boylan, Red is a young Australian woman who knows the sharp end of being Dolly Parton; she’s increasingly finding it easier to be Dolly than be herself. Fired from her realty job, which she mainly used to promote herself anyway rather than sell property, Red finds that Dolly is both the lifeboat and the iceberg in her life; will her newfound romance with Kenny (Daniel Webber), who is known by reputation as ‘the world’s best Kenny Rogers impersonation’ help Red drive out her demons, or is he just one more person who can’t stand the pressure of being himself?
Seriously Red has certainly got a certain novelty value if you’re a fan of all things Dolly; she’s a sainted figure around these parts, and I’ve written before about my experience of being caged at a Dolly concert and watching her belt out Jolene from behind bars. She’s an inspiring figure, someone who overcame prejudice, outsmarted and outlasted her critics, and now enjoys sky-high credentials as a veteran feminist first responder, tackling four decades of misogyny at source. For all of these reasons, it’s obvious in Gracie Otto’s film why a shy redhead like Red would prefer life in a wig and cowboy boots. But can Red ever taste that cup of ambition and find happiness without calling on her alter ego?
‘You might as well be yourself, everyone else is already taken’ Oscar Wilde’s take-away forms the motif for Red’s journey, sharply observed from a sensitive script by Boylan herself. There’s obvious comedy potential here, as when Red accidentally sets fire to the gimungo wig she’s wearing seconds before a big-money Hong Kong duet of Islands in the Stream. But Seriously Red goes a little more deeply and seriously into the lookalike business than might be expected; it’s not surprising that an ersatz Kenny Rogers is suffering from the same sense of displacement as Red, but Red’s crisis of confidence in discovering that her glamorous escape route may well be a dead end is well observed and amounts to a full-on existential crisis, well played by both director and star.
If you’re in any doubt at all, the sight of Bobby Cannavale as a Neil Diamond impersonator knocking seven bells out of I Am I Said should clinch the deal, and producer Rose Byrne makes a pretty good Elvis too; this is a deft comedy drama that never stoops to easy narrative targets like fake talent-show uplift, but makes a convincing case for why you should always aspire to be yourself, even when such pre-packaged and successful skins as Dolly Parton are around. Dolly, apparently, was quite beguiled by Seriously Red, and you may well be too; it may well be a rich man’s game, no matter what they call it, so rather than spend your life putting money in their wallet, Seriously Red is well worth a purchase.
Signature Entertainment presents Seriously Red on Digital Platforms 13th February