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  Upright Cross Country
Year: 2019
Director: Matthew Saville, Tim Minchin
Stars: Tim Minchin, Milly Alcock, Heather Mitchell, Ella Scott Lynch, Daniel Lapaine, Daniel Frederiksen, Kate Box, Asmara Feik, Michael McCall, Richesh Biradara, Laura Brent, Sid Brisbane, Luke Carroll, Mike Frencham, Fiona Harris, Alex Chard, Felino Dolloso
Genre: Comedy, Drama, TV SeriesBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Lucky Flynn (Tim Minchin) is going home, driving across Australia to be with his family again - or that's the idea. He feels he has to go back, because his mother is dying of cancer, but he has plenty of problems including a dependency on alcohol and prescription drugs, which is the reason why he zones out and crashes his car and trailer into a ute and ends up in a ditch. Crawling from the wrecked car, he checks on the piano he was towing and is relieved it is undamaged but the same cannot be said of the driver of the other vehicle, a sixteen-year-old girl called Meg (Milly Alcock) who has a broken forearm. This is the last thing he wanted, but now he has a companion...

Tim Minchin made his name as a comedian, performing his own comic songs, but just as every actor wants to be a comedian, and every comedian wants to be a rock star, and every musician wants to be an actor, he wanted to combine all those talents in one package. To be fair, being this prodigiously talented could have made him insufferable, but he carried a certain humility that while it verged on the passive aggressive, made you forgive him for wanting to do it all and not let anyone else get a look in. Then there's his series for Australian television Upright, where he felt generous enough to allow a younger co-star to take the limelight for long stretches.

Though to be more accurate, they were more of a double act, the piano the (mostly) silent third wheel in the relationship between Lucky and Meg, rolled out for the occasional tickle of the ivories, but mostly a token of Lucky's lost bond with his mother, who we discover early on is dying of cancer and has requested him to return to see her across the continent one last time. He couldn't take an aeroplane, because he needed to transport that musical instrument, except of course he could have made alternate plans, like himself flying while the piano was taken on the road by a delivery firm, or even finding a flight that took cargo and flying it with him. But then there's no story.

So cross country it was, and Meg proved an argumentative, strong-willed partner who we can tell from the off will be getting them both into various scrapes with hi-hi-hilarious consequences. Well, don't worry, this could have been pure cheese, like something out of a seventies George Burns movie where he teamed up with a younger co-star, but if there was an overreliance on swearing to try to convince us this was an adult drama and not for kids despite Alcock's presence, honest, the rapport between the two lead went a long way to keep it diverting enough so that when every episode ended on a cliffhanger after a fashion, you would legitimately be intrigued enough to want to discover what would happen next. Fortunately, Minchin and his co-writers (Chris Taylor credited as creator) conjured up sufficient variation.

What was not quite so welcome was the creeping sentimentality, you knew it was coming, as how could it not with Lucky about to lose a parent and Meg... she has problems of her own that become apparent as the instalments pass by, and also a secret or two, just as her new father figure does. She is ostensibly accompanying him to reach her mother hundreds of miles away, and they use her brother's ute, but as the journey continued we recognised a message was being imparted, telling us we were the sum total of our mistakes in life rather than our achievements, and the sooner we accepted that the sooner we could get others to accept us too. This was wrapped up in a warm and fuzzy denouement where the schmaltz reigned supreme, which some may find resistible, yet if you had any room in your heart you would warm to the misfits and want the best for them despite themselves. The only other questionable bit: Minchin's tendency to whip off his shirt with increasing regularity to show off his ripped torso. Lucky didn't seem the type to spend time in the gym.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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