JESSIE Buckley has quite a set of pipes. On stage at the Grand Ole Opry following Thursday night’s Glasgow Film Festival premiere of her new film Wild Rose, the Irish actress and former musical theatre star demonstrated why she was the perfect choice to play the film’s heroine: a country music-obsessed Glaswegian ex-con mother-of-two determined to make it big in Nashville.
Wild Rose, Cineworld Renfrew Street, Glasgow **
Belting out songs from the soundtrack with a voice that has some of the bluesy rasp of Janis Joplin and a lot of the tenderness of Emmylou Harris, her live set (which kicked off with a cover of Primal Scream’s Country Girl) gave some sense of what the film could have been had her talent been matched by a decent script or the sort of raw, in-the-moment filmmaking that made Bradley Cooper’s recent take on A Star is Born such a soaring triumph.
Instead, Wild Rose plays very much like a rough blueprint for a future West End musical, the sort of jukebox crowd-pleaser that panders to the lowest-common denominator with trite, talent-show-ready homilies about following your dreams and thinly sketched supporting characters who have no interior lives of their own.
Writer Nicole Taylor and director Tom Harper weave in allusions to The Wizard of Oz, structuring the film as a Glasgow-set fantasy in which Buckley’s character, Rose-Lynn Harper, gradually learns there really is no place like home as she moves through life like a tornado, leaving a trail of emotional devastation in her wake. Sadly, they also seem to think that’s a clever enough conceit to negate the need to back up their protagonist’s very real problems with story details that are remotely plausible.
True, it’s a bold choice to set Rose-Lynn up as a brazen bampot who cares more about pursuing her career than trying to reconnect with the kids she knows she had too young, but not when the film stacks the decks in her favour by having her encounter nothing but contemptuously conceived middle-class caricatures and face obstacles that are either too easily overcome or simply forgotten about.
Early on, Rose-Lynn reveals that she loves country music because it’s “three chords and the truth” – an elegant way of capturing how something simple can be riven with complexity.
Yet there’s a difference between simple and simplistic. Wild Rose is an example of the latter. - ALISTAIR HARKNESS
Glasgow Film Festival runs until 3 March, www.glasgowfilm.org