There aren’t many country-music superstars who emerge from hardscrabble lives in Glasgow, and that unlikelihood is both the appeal and the subject of “Wild Rose.” What at first appears to be another crowd-pleasing, music-driven Britcom in the vein of “Billy Elliot” is cut with a strain of kitchen sink realism — an interest in the daily lives of blue-collar workers and in the trade-offs of pursuing dreams.
First and foremost, the movie, written by Nicole Taylor and directed by Tom Harper, is a superb showcase for Jessie Buckley. Doing her own singing, Buckley is a rich, startling vocalist who if anything seems to under-excite the crowds she performs for. Yet she is also persuasive as a reluctant, unreliable parent. Her Rose-Lynn, a former star at Glasgow’s Grand Ole Opry, left her children with her mother (Julie Walters) while serving prison time. Upon release, she shows little interest in altering that arrangement.
“Wild Rose” can be sharp in its portrayal of class disparities. Rose-Lynn takes a job as a cleaning woman, concealing from her wealthy boss (Sophie Okonedo) both her criminal history and the existence of her children (but not her dreams of making it as a star in Nashville).
The movie is stronger when watching Rose-Lynn navigate the logistical difficulties of child-rearing under half-day house arrest than it is in its more readily appealing showstopper sequences. (While vacuuming, Rose-Lynn fantasizes about singing with a backup band.) Perhaps afraid of its own astringency, “Wild Rose” bypasses two potentially hard-hitting endings for a softer landing.
Rated R. Irresponsible parenting. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes.
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