Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rock N Roll Nerd - The Tim Minchin Story (2008)

Watching a transformation is a fascinating thing, especially the dramatic, if somewhat calculated, one that musical comedian Tim Minchin underwent in a last-ditch effort to jump-start his career. Struggling to garner any real attention in his native Australia as a "cabaret comic" with cute songs, he decided to go for an image makeover in a final attempt to make a go of a showbiz career. He added a bit of rock and roll flair to his onstage appearance, giving the songs more of a visceral feel with an edgier look. The fact that Rhian Skirving (who also directed his first performance DVD, the Australian release So Live) was there from the crucial moment of his decision was just a very fortunate happenstance of a longtime friendship. It's a real treat to be with Minchin literally every step of the way on his climb up the ladder of success that he is still continuing to ascend.

Being able to be along for the ride as Minchin sets up his first show at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is fun enough, but to see him get noticed by Karen Koren, a very influential producer/promoter at the insanely huge Edinburgh Fringe Festival, actually becomes emotional. Watching the professional relationship between the 2 grow is a fascinating event. And watching Minchin's personal life get affected by his professional desires is compelling viewing as well. Having been with the same woman since they were both 17, Minchin is very un-rock and roll in that regard, and very close with his family and friends...even when he is forced to be not so close geographically. Hoping to support the family he is very trepidatiously starting, he will be spending 2 months in Scotland at the Fringe Festival away from his wife in Australia as he gambles on whether he can make a career of performing professionally. Then, seeing the upheaval his family, friends, and himself, have to go thru when he decides to move half a globe away from his native Perth (in Western Australia) to London, England is just another delicate subject matter wonderfully handled by filmmaker Skirving...and kudos to Minchin for agreeing to be as open as he is in this doco.

The film is very revealing (figuratively and literally...many shots feature Minchin in the dressing room in various states of UNdress), and that, of course, is the bulk of its appeal. By being open and vunerable, the viewer can relate, and wants Minchin to achieve the success that has thus far in the film eluded him, but appears to be coming his way. This film is attracting attention now because of the fact that its subject has gained a great deal of fame in Australia and the UK, and is starting to break in the US; he will be performing on Conan O'Brien's show a scant few hours after the publication of this piece. But it's really a beautiful picture of a human artist struggling to make his way in his chosen profession, regardless of the success he achieved beyond the span of the film. In speaking with Minchin after his Los Angeles performance the night before his O'Brien TV appearance (yes, Unseen goes to great lengths to bring you in-depth and personal coverage), he says that even if he hadn't achieved his current level of fame, the film still would have been put together and released. It isn't a doco about Tim Minchin, celebrity; it's a film about a person doing what he feels he needs to in order to make it in this world, and that's something anyone can relate to.

It doesn't hurt to already be a fan of Minchin if you watch Rock N Roll Nerd (you'll have an even greater appreciation for the artist as a person afterwards), but you could never have heard of him and still find it an enjoyable and interesting, and sometimes touching and inspiring, way to spend 90 minutes. And by the end, you WILL be a fan.

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