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The Grand Ole Opry Ain't So Grand

2019 Tribeca Film Festival

Wild Rose (2019)

Concerning a Scot with country music aspirations, “Wild Rose” is predictable and just as predictably crowd-pleasing. Drug-trafficking ex-con? Check. Unemployable? Check. Broke? Check. Irresponsible single parent? Check. Long-suffering grandmother (played by Julie Walters)? Check. Resentful kids? Check. Mamas and prison and getting drunk? Check. Impossible dream? Check. Talent? Check. By merely connecting the dots, the screenplay practically writes itself.

The film harks back to those Miramax British productions that fell out of favor as the Weinstein brothers exited the studio. Most movies of this ilk were vastly overrated and were popular only with arthouse patrons of a certain (read: retirement) age. But “Wild Rose” truly works because its relatively unknown star, Jessie Buckley, happens to be blessed with extraordinary singing and acting gifts. In spite of the singularly unimaginative script by Nicole Taylor that feels clichéd even in the way it attempts to evade predictability, it’s impossible not to root for Ms. Buckley’s character, Rose-Lynn.

One particularly questionable choice is having Sophie Okonedo play Rose-Lynn's well-to-do employer and cheerleader, Susannah. Sure, there needs to be more representation of black women as successful and affluent. But it’s a disservice to that character to contrast her with a financially underprivileged female protagonist who still enjoys white privilege. But cynicism always dampens one’s enjoyment of such crowd pleasers, and “Wild Rose” and Ms. Buckley are expert at chipping away one’s cynicism.


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