When Lucky’s (Tim Minchin) hire car is totalled in the Australian outback, he strikes a deal with the other driver in the accident to get him across the continent to Perth. However, this raises its own problems. One of which is the driver of the other car is a 16 year old girl called Meg (Milly Alcock), who appears to be fleeing something. The second is that Lucky’s one goal seems to be to get his upright piano across the desert, come what may. It soon becomes clear that the 40-something, neurotic, failed musician, and the talkative, rebellious grifter may not make the best travelling companions.
A road movie stretched out through eight episodes, and across the breadth of Australia, Upright sustains interest through its sharp dialogue, emotionally engaging plot, beautiful cinematography, and exceptionally charismatic leads. It commands audiences attention initially through the odd mystery of a man trying to get a piano across a continent, as well as the abrasive and strange teen that crashes into him, but soon we’re invested in the characters and the emotional journey they’re undertaking.
Part vision quest, part buddy comedy, part road movie, part Aussie satire, part coming of age story (even if that is for a 40 year old man-child), Upright consistently proves itself as funny and smart drama, as we see Lucky and Meg grow throughout their odyssey. The chemistry between Minchin and Alcock is phenomenal, managing to find the balance between the “chalk and cheese” relationship they have on the surface, while also allowing the deeper similarities to show. Both have secrets, both have been damaged by their relationship with their brother, and harbour deep regrets over their actions. However Upright moves beyond genre expectations to find a deeper emotional core to the characters. Their learning from each other rarely feels forced, but rather part of a genuine rapport.
Add to this the gorgeous direction of Matthew Saville (A Month of Sundays), a fantastic list of Aussie songs, the beauty of the Australian outback, and a team of writers that can produce some screamingly funny lines (including Minchin), and Upright truly is something special. This is funny and affecting Australian TV that manages to grow with every episode.
Upright premieres December 1 on Foxtel.