Actors are insane. They pretend to see things that are not there and try to become people they are not. And instead of locking them away we reward many of them with millions of dollars. We listen intently as they describe how they spent six months as a child prostitute just for a few minutes of screen time. But the best type of acting is not just observation. It is believing in what you are doing with such a power the audience cannot help but be drawn in. The story, writing, direction, and budget for Rockabilly Baby may be weak, but the acting from the 3 leads keeps the film watchable and occasionally engrossing.
It’s a shame that so many Southern movies appear to be put together by those who’ve never been there. Rockabilly Baby is one of these movies. All the characters speak in clichés that real Southern people would never utter. Real people rarely try this hard to be colorful. The film is set in the past. But it’s not a past that really existed anywhere besides bad movies.
Besides the southern stereotypes, this film also has many story problems. Much of the movie is set up as a tug of war between a rockabilly singer’s friend and his sister. The friend wants him to continue his career and his sister wants him to come back home. From what we hear however this is a ridiculous idea. The singer is too successful to be quitting and could just send money home to help his mother. This simple idea would solve this problem too easily, so of course it is never mentioned. A romantic subplot between the friend and the sister is silly and subtracts more than it adds.
It takes real skill to make scenes this silly and make them somewhat believable. Denton Blane Everett, Todd Farr and Brandi Price are all excellent and give this material more than it deserves. They are able to take dialogue that no human being has ever said and make it sound believable. They do everything the script asks of them and so much more. How they find a way to believe what they are doing I will never know, but it saves the film. Without this skill and dedication the film would be a complete waste.
The rockabilly era could be an interesting backdrop for a movie. That would require more understanding than the filmmakers have here. More than just the clothes and the sound. An understanding of why these people act the way they do besides the plot requires them to. This movie is adapted from a stage play, but unless the dialogue has been drastically changed this is no excuse. The actors give us a better glimpse into these characters. They may not make them believable, but they do give the movie its interest. I just wish that skill had been put to better use.