Doing Time for Patsy Cline Review

Ralph (Matt Day) lives on his parents' farm in Australia and dreams of becoming a country singer. He sets out with just a guitar and a plane ticket to Nashville in order to follow his dream. However, his fate takes a turn when he hitches a ride with the possibly dodgy Boyd (Richard Roxburgh) and Boyd's girlfriend Patsy (a redheaded Miranda Otto), to whom Ralph takes a shine. Then disaster strikes as the police arrest Boyd for drug-trafficking, and Ralph as an accomplice...

Doing Time for Patsy Cline is an odd film, a romantic comedy that tries its hardest to disguise the fact that it stalls somewhere around the midway point, but doesn't quite manage this. So the rest of the film becomes a prison drama, though one of a more benevolent kind than most – the crims that Boyd and Ralph share their cell with turn out to be country fans.

Director Chris Kennedy's script intersperses the action with scenes set in Nashville, which show Ralph and Patsy trying to establish themselves, before deciding that they work best as a duo. Flashforwards or daydreams? For much of the film they could be either, and it's only near the end that the film settles for one, aiming for a poignancy that it doesn't achieve. It's not easy to say what it adds up to, unless the ending is suggesting that dreams should take precedence over reality, even to the point of delusion. While the film is certainly not unpleasant to watch, it doesn't really come off.

However, Doing Time for Patsy Cline is helped by strong performances. Richard Roxburgh in particular is a standout as the fast-talking, sleaze-edged Boyd, and won the Australian Film Institute Award for Best Actor. Matt Day has the right blend of naivete and enthusiasm, while Miranda Otto is warm but also mysterious as Patsy. Roy Billing and Annie Byron (the latter AFI-nominated) are entertaining as Ralph's parents. Day and Otto did their own singing, and the music is another plus, the song “Dead Red Roses” being an effective recurring theme.

This was Chris Kennedy's third feature, following the thriller Glass (1989) and the comedy This Won't Hurt a Bit in 1993, which drew upon Kennedy's background as a dentist before he became a writer and director. I have seen neither; nor have I seen his only subsequent feature, 2004's A Man's Gotta Do, another comedy. Doing Time for Patsy Cline picked up ten AFI, four of which became wins for Roxburgh as Best Actor, for Andrew Lesnie's cinematography, Louise Wakefield's costume design and Peter Best's music score. It was nominated for Best Film, losing to Bill Bennett's Kiss or Kill, which also starred Matt Day. It bypassed British release, first coming out on DVD in 2009.


Doing Time for Patsy Cline was first released in the UK in 2009 by It was one of a batch of Australian films which have been reissued by Crabtree in 2011, the original discs in new packaging. The DVD is encoded for all regions.

The DVD transfer is in 4:3, needless to say not anamorphically enhanced, open-matte from an intended ratio of 1.85:1. Owners of widescreen sets should zoom the picture to 16:9. The image is certainly acceptable, though a little soft and lacking in shadow detail. Though this look may be intentional, I can't help feeling that an anamorphic transfer in the right ratio would be better.

The soundtrack is Dolby Surround (2.0). This isn't the most adventurous of sound mixes, with the surrounds mostly being used for the music score. The songs sound fine. Unfortunately there are no subtitles for the hard-of-hearing. Nor are there any extras.

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