SXSW FILM 2010
By Don Simpson | March 10, 2010
Director: Justin Molotnikov
Writer: Justin Molotnikov
Starring: Stephen McCole, Malcolm Shields, Andrew Neil, Jo Hartley, Laura Keenan, Micaiah Dring
Joey Frisk (Stephen McCole) is a Scottish comedian. Fueled mostly by cocaine and booze, Joey’s comedy is brutally violent and emotionally raw – you might even say it’s frisky. We meet Joey as he appears on stage; he is bloodied up with a massive shiner that looks like it stings like a mother-fucking bee. Joey is in a damn sorry state, you might say. Rather than flat-out jokes, Joey begins to recollect the chain of events that made him this way. The audience seems uncomfortable. Where is Joey taking us with all of this? Where is the punch-line? (Pun intended.) Well, patience my dears. This film is told in flashback from this point onward, so you will just have to sit back and enjoy the ride…
While swimming at the local pool, Joey runs into an old high school buddy named Frank Archer (Malcolm Shields). Joey does not recognize Frank – nor does he remember his school days very well – which is why he seems indifferent to Frank’s appearance. Heck, Joey does not even seem sure that he was ever “friends” with Frank.
Overburdened with financial woes – he is behind on payments to his ex-wife as well as his rent – Joey threatens his landlord in front of countless witnesses during one of his stand-up routines at the local club. (Joey delves a wee bit too deep and too often into his own personal saga during his routines; recounting drunken threesomes from the night before, problems with his landlord, etc.) Later, Joey is picked up by the police for brutally attacking his landlord – an act we do not see, an act that Joey denies he did. Out on bail and with no one else willing to help him, Frank takes him in.
Joey’s mental state begins to come into question as he begins to spiral out of control. He does not know what to believe or whom he can trust. It seems that Joey has found himself in an elaborate conspiracy seemingly related to his all-but-forgotten childhood…or maybe Joey’s long life of heavy drinking and hard drugs has finally caught up with him?
Written and directed by Justin Molotnikov, Crying with Laughter is as brutally violent and emotionally raw as Joey’s stand-up. To paraphrase Joey, Crying with Laughter is about “abuse, kidnap, torture; just the average Saturday night in Scotland.” But, in all actuality, Crying with Laughter is about revenge; whether one is willing to resort to violence (even murder) in order to punish someone for past deeds or if the past can truly be forgiven, maybe even forgotten. Crying with Laughter is by no means an easy film to watch, but several of the plot’s twists and turns are executed quite masterfully and McCole’s lead performance is chillingly sincere.