When is an underdog story not one? Sold Out starts out seeming like it’s a “follow your dreams” narrative as construction worker John (Sam Bardwell), who is stuck in a loveless marriage to Lauren (Christine Weber), harbors dreams of making it big with his music. Through happenstance, John meets talented music scout Kat (Kelsey McMahon), who agrees to mentor him and help him achieve his dreams. So, now all the pieces are in place for the loving father to the adorably spirited Millie (Naomi Bardwell) to write his music and struggle to get noticed by the higher-ups at this or that music company.
Umm, not so fast there, plot synopsis. See, director Tim Dahlseid and writer Susan Brightbill know there have been a million stories following a similar trajectory. So, they decide to focus intimately on the characters. Sold Out does feature Bardwell (quite the apt last name, by the by) crooning and struggling to write songs on his musical journey. But that’s window dressing, the vehicle that drives the characters, not the point. Instead, the plot hinges on the interactions and backstories of its three-dimensional, engaging, flawed protagonists.
“Through happenstance, John meets talented music scout Kat, who agrees to mentor him…”
John means well, but his internalized frustration for putting his dreams on hold to have a family has bled into constant fighting between him and Lauren. Not that Lauren is blameless, as she is overwhelmed and occasionally cruel to both her husband and daughter. As for Kat, she knows everyone and seemingly has a great life, but being a scout doesn’t pay the bills as one might hope. Her father is a black-out drunk whose house is teetering on being repossessed. That is to say nothing of the harrowing backstory Kat’s keeping a secret from John.
Ostensibly, Sold Out is a romantic comedy in the same way the criminally underrated Wimbledon is one. See, in that romantic sports flick, the romance bolsters the sports drama, while the sports drama makes the romance feel fresh as well (the stunning chemistry between its leads helps, of course). Here, the same thing happens, as the budding relationship between Kat and John is riveting, adding an extra dimension to the usual troubadour fighting for his voice to be heard tale so often told.
"…when is an underdog story not one?"