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An intense dark comedy set in Edinburgh, Scotland, Crying with Laughter
is the brainchild of writer/director Justin Molotnikov and stars
Stephen McCole (The Acid House) as a cocaine snorting stand-up comedian
on the verge of his first big break. The film opens with his character,
Joey Frisk, practicing his routine on Portobello Beach, belting booze
and shouting at the waves as if they were a rowdy comedy-club crowd.
His act is a hit, with wry humour and jabs at a willing audience, but
after he bumps into an old school friend while kicking back in a sauna,
things start to get creepy.
Frank, played to the hilt by Malcolm Shields, spots Joey and introduces himself with enthusiasm, reminding him of the time Joey drunkenly burnt down a schoolmaster's office for a laugh and wound-up being sent to a borstal (a cross between a school and a prison in the UK, thankfully the project was abandoned in 1982). That night Joey tells the anecdote to his audience, making fun of Frank's attempt at conversation, "One thing you just don't do in a sauna is make chat, it's a room full of half naked men for crying out loud!" is his take on things. Of course Frank is in the audience and Joey has to eat humble pie as he's introduced to Frank's girl. Joey gets drunk and wakes up in bed, post threesome, with two of his comedy club mates. The day goes from weird to worse and eventually he's kicked out of his flat and, after getting hammered again that night and is arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm for apparently attacking his landlord, something he can't recall, and seems unlikely to us, the audience. During the police line-up we see Frank again, pointing the finger at Joey from behind the one way glass. Joey doesn't have a clue.
Homeless and desperate, Joey phones everyone he can think of to find a couch or room to crash in, but only Frank answers his cry and happily puts him up in the spare room of his expensive, inherited house. From here the game begins proper as Joey is manipulated and emotionally blackmailed into attending a mysterious 'Reunion' at their old schoolhouse. Stopping off at an old-folks-home run by a dope smoking goon, the ex-military and increasingly sociopathic Frank kidnaps the above mentioned schoolmaster, now suffering from senile dementia and putting up little resistance. Joey is horrified but Frank holds the cards with a threat to Jo's daughter and ex-wife. What's Frank planning? What's Joey and Frank's connection to the old schoolmaster? All the dirty laundry comes out in a powerful third act, which involves brutal, violent torture and a confession of the unthinkable.
Set in and around Edinburgh, Molotnikov uses the location to his advantage, with its winding streets and alleys, lush architecture and seedy drug and booze culture. Thrillers like this are rare, promising and delivering on shocking exposition and an intense atmosphere; it's a great little gem. The technique of punctuating chapters of the film with Joey's final stand-up routine, which is a tell-all story of what's happened in the film, works well and the acting and direction are excellent all round. Shields stands-out, as he exudes a thinly veiled menace which he masks with earnest enthusiasm and innocence, and in the end we're almost on his side after revelations about the real villain of the piece.
Keep an eye out for this one.
I am a professional screenwriter, and when I see something brilliant, I find myself thinking, "Gee, I wish I'd written that script." I just saw this at the EIFF and had those exact thoughts. A brilliant script, directed well by the writer, and it looks like his first feature. A gripping tale that is entertaining, funny, and thought provoking. The R rating it will receive is both necessary and appropriate -- even though I'm not a fan of R movies, I am a fan of this one. Great message, to boot, but never heavy handed or on the nose. I hope this gets wide distribution -- it deserves it. Only distraction for me is that the Scots accents are quite strong and may not sit well with American audiences who don't have the ear for it. Perhaps it will need subtitles for that crowd -- hah! Great acting, BTW. A solid, different, great film. yh
A coked-up, alcoholic narcissist making money by catering his stand-up
'shtick' to his like-minded contemporaries in dimly lit bars like the
Bull Pit personifies our protagonist, Joey Frisk, at least to the eye.
This comedian was behind in child support and rent, and and just came
off as a making it day-to-day, near-do-well, who-cares kind of chap.
Consequently, when he once again began his disgusting hyperbole
regarding some woman, I felt like shutting this down, and then
Frank began his magic!
Justin Molotnikov, Writer and Director, methodically paced Frank's character to move this piece along like a thriller ought to move. Indeed, we got to know at least the facade of the two main characters fairly well and then, like a train that hits a long 7% grade, we watch the whole thing unfold in a manner which cannot be stopped.
The subject matter is dark; the things we do to ourselves and others in order to survive make us, at times, walking talking paradoxes and that is what Joey had become. But, will he grow to be as dangerous as Frank? Malcom Shields and Stephen McCole are exceptional!!! Included: Bawdiness, humor, drama, thrills, depth of character, redemption. 10/06/2010
A shambolic stand up comic Joey Fisk (a terrific Stephen McCole in a
welcome lead role) meets an acquaintance from his school days Frank
Archer (an understated Malcolm Shields) whose attentions have a
sinister ulterior motive.
It's hard enough to do a comedy or a really good thriller with genuine shocks but to combine them both without diminishing either is a real accomplishment from writer/director Justin Molotnikov.
It's great to see a whole cast of Scottish faces that are new to the big screen.
Here's hoping it gets a good distribution deal.
I have to disagree with graham 525's review. The film was, and was
supposed to look like a low budget movie. Personally, I think this
approach was honest and gritty. If you want glamour, watch Hollywood!
The script was down to earth - like the filming, it tried to give a
sense of realism, as if you were watching someone's video diaries.
The acting was good and the character Frank was totally convincing. Albeit he came across as strange for the most part of the film but strange was the correct approach. This guy, as it turned out, had a terrible past and had also spent his adult life in the forces, so had no doubt seen a lot of terrible things and been through a lot. It will come clear in the end.
The ending is not daft at all. The daughter is kidnapped in an attempt to bring Joey to the final destination. I also believe Frank blames Joey for some of his later suffering and looks to expose Joey's young daughter to the horror that he has been through in the school.
A good "night in" film, with good locations, with good "honest, non-Hollywood" acting.
The over all impression I had of Crying With Laughter was that of a
film student or amateur film maker being let loose with a professional
film crew and not really knowing what to do with it. The script wasn't
great and the plot that unfolded down right silly. Low budget film
makers always seem to feel the need to have a shocking element to their
story as if this makes it intrinsically good drama and an obligatory
climatic scene where all is revealed. It actually started off
reasonably well with a solid enough character, the stand up comedian
Joey Frisk played by Stephen MacCole. He's a bit clichéd but a decent
script could have built around him and his relationship with his
family. Instead a totally unconvincing character called Frank starts
hanging around trying to get him to attend a school reunion. Frank
apparently beats up Joey's landlord and then claims to be a witness to
Joey doing it and identifies him in a police line up. It's such a
severe attack that Joey is facing the possibility of many years in
prison. Frank then pretends to be a friend to Joey offering him a place
to live and even an alibi. Anyway a very silly plot unfolds where Frank
kidnaps a former teacher who raped him as a child and as it turns out
Joey but to be honest by this point I didn't really care. Frank also
kidnaps Joeys daughter for reasons that shall remain a mystery.
The ending is a bit daft and there is absolutely no resolution as to what will happen to any of the characters concerning the assault charge or the kidnapping. Not that I was particularly interested in finding out.
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