By Jess Fenton
12th June 2019

Every country has a distinct look and feel when it comes to the films they produce - particularly comedies and rom-coms. England’s are dry, witty and fantastic. America’s are broad, sometimes wacky and iconic. But Australia’s are truly awful (with few exceptions)... yet loveable and adorable. So why should our latest rom-com ‘Standing Up For Sunny’ be any different?

Travis (RJ Mitte, TV's ‘Breaking Bad’) is a bitter loner who happens to have cerebral palsy and is constantly ridiculed by arseholes on the street and at his job. In an attempt to escape his new, blind, large Samoan flatmate Gordo (Italia Hunt) one night - who tags along anyway - they wind up at a local bar on comedy night. The bartender Sunny (Philippa Northeast, TV's ‘Home and Away’) is on stage and getting brutally heckled by a drunken patron. Travis steps in and turns the tables, making jokes about himself and the heckler at the same time, bringing down the house and defusing the situation. He’s later offered an under-the-table job by Mikey (Sam Reid, ‘The Limehouse Golem’), a breakfast radio host by day, bar owner and Sunny’s (bit of a dick) boyfriend by night. Mikey wants Travis to teach Sunny how to stand up to hecklers and perfect her material in a bid to get her a radio gig next to him. However, Sunny dreams of becoming a mechanic after completing her engineering degree - but not before winning the three heats of a prestigious comedy completion to make it to the televised showcase judged by none other than Barry Humphries and then on to radio stardom. But who’s the real comedian here?


‘Standing Up For Sunny’ sports some of most grossly unnatural and embarrassing dialogue ever (but you do eventually get used to it) with shots that look as though they were filmed from the bushes of Sydney’s hottest suburbs in an effort to avoid permit fees. Also, in this world, becoming a stand-up comedian and a breakfast radio host are fallback jobs! Not something someone spends their entire life aspiring to. Wow, what a time to be alive.

And filmmaking 101 - secondary and tertiary characters are there for comic relief and plot devices; pawns in place to help move the story along or to help fill in information gaps where necessary. In this movie their there for two reasons: 1).yeah, I don’t know, and 2) to help push the main character’s horrific backstories. This is for reasons I’m unsure of, but it is something that Australian filmmakers do infuriatingly often. Keep in mind this is a comedy, so why wouldn’t you throw in some sexual abuse, an eating disorder and family violence? What a laugh riot they are. And let’s not forget the emotionally abuse relationship. Oh please stop, my sides are splitting.

The film sports some of most grossly unnatural and embarrassing dialogue ever (but you do eventually get used to it).

Here’s the catch - despite its many flaws, ‘Standing Up For Sunny’ is very sweet and adorable and pushes some great messages about love and self-acceptance. Let's call this one a diamond in the rough.

Looking for more Sydney Film Festival reviews? Click here to check out our collection of this year's highlights.
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