The Callback Queen Review: a witless cacophony filled with bum notes
Many of the gags in this ”romantic comedy” would likely be offensive if they weren’t so plain weird
Amy-Joyce Hastings in The Callback Queen. Photograph: Anthony Bowes
Film Title: The Callback Queen
Director: Graham Cantwell
Starring: Amy-Joyce Hastings, Mark Killeen, Seán T O'Meallaigh, Ger Ryan, Vicki Michelle, Eoin Macken
Running Time: 91 min
Graham Cantwell’s peculiar romantic comedy has been on a journey since its Irish premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh two years ago. In February of 2014, George RR Martin presented the film at his own cinema in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Given that a fictionalised version of George appears in the picture, we must conclude that this US premiere was a meta-textual affair of the most puzzling stripe.
It would be pleasing to report that The Callback Queen deserves its trans-Atlantic renown. But this remains a mess of a production, weighed down by indifferent performances and jokes that come across – in the manner of Jurassic Park – like amber-encased traces of gags from a less sensitive epoch.
Amy-Joyce Hastings is charming enough as Kate, an Irish actress failing to get the right sort of roles in a picturesque incarnation of London. During the opening act, she finds herself rubbing up against Vincent (Mark Killeen), an internationally successful director, while indulging her old friend Daithí (Seán T Ó Meallaigh), who is making an experimental short. For no good reason, Vincent ends up helping out on the smaller film. While Daithí develops his unscripted production into something that looks unexpectedly like a Silvikrin commercial, Kate and Vincent drift towards cute love.
Space precludes comprehensive adumbration of the bum notes sounding throughout this witless cacophony. There are at least two comedy homosexuals. There is a “funny” east European who wields a knife and offers to sell his colleagues drugs. The gags involving political tensions between Daithí and his (implausibly royalist) English girlfriend might be offensive if they weren’t so plain weird. Could any young Englishwoman capable of dragging out “Fenian” as an insult be quite so ignorant of contemporary Irish affairs? The less said about the use of nationalist invective as an erotic stimulus, the sooner those jokes are banished from memory.
The surprising presence of Vicki Michelle in a substantial supporting role points us towards similarly unreconstructed comedies of the 1970s. Those creaky entertainments did, however, make their own sort of crazy sense. Even if the jokes were better and the politics less antediluvian, we would still be left with a bewildering central relationship. I suppose Killeen is being asked to play a sort of “rough diamond”. Unfortunately, he grasps the part with all the delicacy with which Vinnie Jones once grasped Paul Gascoigne’s testicles. (To be fair, he’d be terrific in a gangster flick.)
Vincent is utterly terrifying. I do hope Kate will be all right.
The Callback Queen is out now on limited release