Music-related movies, as opposed to generic musicals, have
become a box office juggernaut in the past 12 months.
Elton John’s Rocketman ($2.6 million) has jumped to fourth place behind two Marvel blockbusters, Avengers: Endgame ($9.5 million) and Captain Marvel ($4.2 million), and the Disney musical Aladdin ($2.8 million).
Last year, Bohemian Rhapsody finished third at $5 million, just ahead of two more conventional musicals, Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and A Star is Born.
Others released this year include Mary Poppins Returns and the Kiwi-made Daffodils, which uses a number of local hits.
By contrast, Natalie Portman as a heavy-metal diva in Vox Lux failed to click with local audiences.
Recently joining the ranks are the documentary Pavarotti and the fantasy-based Yesterday, while Netflix has released several musically- themed features, notably Michael Scorcese’s mesmerising Rolling Thunder Revue. This relives a Bob Dylan tour of 45 years ago and features such folk singing luminaries as Joan Baez at a time when America was just recovering from the Vietnam War.
Much more modestly intended is Wild Rose (Universal), a lively rags-to near-riches tale of a Glaswegian country singer (Jessie Buckley) who dreams of appearing at Nashville’s
Grand Ole Opry.
Ireland-born Buckley has a tremendous singing voice that was not needed for her previous dramatic roles in Beast, last year’s under-rated, but badly named, thriller, and as a fireman’s wife in the acclaimed HBO miniseries Chernobyl.
In fact, Buckley owes her film career to her success in a singing contest.
The story starts with flame haired Rose-Lynn’s release from
jail after a year-long sentence for assault and possession of heroin, which gives some indication of her short temper and lack of conformity to social norms.
She returns to a hard-scrabble existence in a high-rise block and, after being sacked from a bar, is employed as a cleaner in a country manor run by a snobbish, but compassionate, Sophie Okonedo (Hotel Rwanda).
Rose-Lynn is also the far from perfect mother of two children, who are mainly in the care of their grandmother (the ubiquitous Julie Walters).
If most aspects of Rose-Lynn’s life and outlook are grim, she has undoubted talent, as the many country hits on the soundtrack demonstrate.
Her employer provides opportunities through her media connections and wealthy friends, but is kept oblivious to Rose-Lynn’s status.
This deception is typical of her lack of personal responsibility and she almost sinks her chances of a successful singing career when she, for once, gets her parental priorities right.
The pay off includes that longed for trip to the Grand Ole Opry — who knew Glasgow has one, too! — providing a suitably upbeat end to the emotional pulls between condemnation and celebration.
Tom Harper’s direction swings from the mundane treatment of a delinquent single mother dragging around her kids to the exhilarating heights of knockout stage performances.
The latter are always the highlight of films about musicians, but there are no comparisons in this case to the backstage lives of established performers.
Rating: Mature audiences, 100 minutes.