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DVD Review

DVD cover

Crying With Laughter

2 Disc Collectors Edition


Starring: Stephen McCole, Malcolm Shields and Jo Hartley
Britfilms TV
RRP: £16.99
Certificate: 18
Available 24 January 2011

Joey Frisk, a stand-up comedian, is going through a rough patch. He owes money to his landlord, his wife has found a new partner and he only sees his kid on weekends. His drinking is out of control, but there is a light on the horizon in the form of an American agent who is coming to see his show. Into this maelstrom walks Frank Archer, an old school friend, whose invasion into Joey’s life at first seems an inconvenience, but quickly turns into being Joey’s only hope when things start to go wrong. But then Joey forgot the golden rule: "When a thing looks too good to be true, it probably is"...

Crying with Laughter (2009 - 1 hr, 29 min, 15 sec) is a dramatic thriller from first time writer/director Justin Molotnikov. The film won the BAFTA Scottish Best Film 2009 as well as Best Feature Film Award at the Celtic Media Festival 2010. The film co-stars Andrew Neil and Jo Hartley.

The movie opens with Joey (Stephen McCole), on a beach, practicing some new material, before moving onto his main act. Joey uses incidents in his life to fuel his comedy, which allows the film to use his act to run through the whole movie as we see what happens to him and his comedic take on events. Comedy was a brave, if obvious choice, to give Joey a voice, brave because what is funny is a very personal thing. Joey’s comedy is one of observational cruelty, which I personally didn’t find that funny. As it plays only a minor part in the film, even if you don’t laugh it’s not going to spoil your enjoyment. The reason for this is that what happens to Joey is far from funny.

Following a gig he runs into an old school mate, Frank (Malcolm Shields), who Joey accuses of stalking him, he picks on a woman in the audience only to discover that it is Frank’s wife. Domestically things are not going well and when his landlord demands the rent Joey uses his act to ask the audience the best way of killing a landlord. Amusing as this might seem, when Joey wakes up from a practically boozy sleep he is accused of seriously assaulting the self-same landlord. During the line-up the camera pulls back to reveal that his accuser is none other than Frank. Things quickly spiral downward. I’ll not spoil it, but things get very dark for Joey.

The problem with the film is that it is unlikely to get the exposure it deserves, Made on a budget that wouldn’t even cover the catering costs of most films, the cast and crew have obviously poured their hearts into the venture, justifiably so, as they have produced a little gem of a film. Joey is flawed, and at the start of the film not very likable, Frank is dark and menacing, especially when the audience realises that Frank is manoeuvring Joey into a place where he has no wish to go. The ending, which you will not see coming is a real WTF moment, wonderfully executed as the audience discover that this is a film about raw violent revenge.

The film is presented as a two disc DVD set. The first disc contains the film and a commentary, from the cast and crew as well as English and French subtitles. The commentary is a relaxed, yet informative take on the film with contributions from Justin Molotnikov (writer/director), Malcolm Shields (Frank), Stephen McCole (Joey) and Laura Keenan (producer).

Although the film was made exclusively on digital, it looks far better than a lot of its contemporaries. The DD 2.0 stereo audio track is clear, with accents which are not impenetrable.

Disc two kicks off with a ‘Making of’ featurette (12 min, 24 sec) that takes a look at the genesis of the film, with some behind the scenes filming and interviews with the major players/ It's short, so it's not particularly in-depth, but worth a look.

Becoming Joey Frisk Documentary (18 min, 48 sec) takes a look at how McCole, through his tutor Viv Gee, took the road from novice to believable stand-up comic. The Inspiration behind Crying with Laughter (26 min, 44 sec) is a three way discussion between the director and the two leads, more harrowing is the discovery that much of the film is based on the real-life experiences of Malcolm Shields. Edinburgh Festival Launch Party Gig (4 min, 53 sec) with McCole doing a whole set as Joey. Comedy Sets (57 min, 36 sec) has ‘Joey’ and four lesser known comedians doing their stand-up sets.

The disc is wrapped up with nine deleted scenes, a bit about Britfilms and a web link.


Charles Packer

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