Length: 8 x episodes (25-30 minutes each)
There’s a lot to be said for the humble road trip. Sure, it’s not as high-falutin’ as your fancy plane journeys, and will likely take you to less exotic locales, but there’s charm to be had in setting off on the open road.
You’ll see places you never thought to visit, meet a bunch of friendly locals and search hopefully for that most elusive prize: the servo toilet that isn’t an absolutely repugnant nightmare.
Road trips are also prime material for movies and TV, as evidenced by the sheer number of them. Crossing genres and decades, road trips can be seen in everything from Easy Rider (1969) to Wild at Heart (1990) to The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) to Little Miss Sunshine (2006) and even Zombieland (2009).
Well, now the road trip has reached the loungeroom, with Tim Minchin’s latest project, Upright, which is streaming on Binge. Even better, it’s pretty damn good!
Upright tells the tale of Lachlan Flynn (Tim Minchin), “Lucky” to his mates, who is a jaded ex-musician trying to get a piano home to his family in Perth. A family who he hasn’t seen for eight years, for reasons that are slowly revealed throughout the show’s eight episodes.
Along the way, Lucky collides (quite literally) with hilariously foul-mouthed teenager Meg (Milly Alcock) and the pair are presented with a problem. Lucky’s car is cactus, so he has no way of getting to Perth. Meg’s arm is broken so she has no way of driving. So, an unlikely, and completely unwanted, alliance forms with Lucky driving Meg’s ride, and she graciously (well, sorta) allows him to use her Ute to transport the piano.
It’s an elegantly simple premise for a road trip yarn, and Upright spends much of its eight episode journey showcasing various intriguing destinations and quirky, very Australian, personalities. The luckless pair have run-ins with dodgy bikers, horny travellers, shonky cops and unpleasant thieves with frequently very funny, occasionally quite moving, results.
Of course, the whole caper would be a dead loss if our leads weren’t up to snuff, and happily Upright brings the goods in that department.
While it has become inexplicably trendy to heap scorn on Tim Minchin - a result, perhaps, of the classic tall poppy syndrome we Aussies seem collectively unable to shake - he brings a believable brittleness and vulnerability to the role of Lucky, while also nailing the moments of acerbic comedy.
However, it’s Milly Alcock who is the undisputed star here, playing Meg as a snarling, hyper-confident uber brat whose actions and reactions are so unpredictable you can’t help but be enchanted, if slightly nervous.
Minchin, who also co-wrote the series, delivers solid scripts that only occasionally skew too broad and actually manages to nail some genuinely emotional beats along the way. Plus, it’s always nice to see unique Australia landscapes like the Nullarbor featured on the telly, particularly in quality productions like this.
Ultimately, Upright is a heart-warming tale of redemption in the classic road trip mode. It’s at times funny, uplifting, sad and very human. It features Tim Minchin at his best, a rising Aussie star in the form of Milly Alcock and a fabulous soundtrack.
Upright is a road trip well worth taking, and you don’t even have to brave a wretched servo toilet to enjoy the experience.
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