That's Not Me
An entertaining and hugely relatable local comedy about trying without achieving much success.
September 07, 2017
When That's Not Me begins, it's with a black screen and an Oscar speech — and then a toilet and a can of air freshener. Polly Cuthbert (Alice Foulcher) is practicing for the acclaim and awards she hopes will come, but it's clear the aspiring actress still has a way to go. But hey, she's determined. Working at a cinema, turning down soap operas, and waiting to audition for Jared Leto's new HBO show are part of her slow-and-steady approach to carving out a serious career. And it might've worked, if her identical twin sister Amy hadn't started living out Polly's wildest acting fantasies instead.
That's Not Me is more than just the title of this smart, funny and perceptive Australian comedy from writer-director Gregory Erdstein and writer-star Foulcher. It's also what Polly finds herself telling her sibling's fans when they start accosting her wherever she goes. Moreover, in a movie that explores the reality that lifelong dreams don't always work out as planned, it offers audiences a clever reminder: there's nothing wrong with not having the life and job you thought you would when you were a kid.
Call it a quarter-life-crisis portrait, a faking-it-without-making-it character study, or a not-quite-slacker story. Whichever label you choose, they all fit the bill. As familiar as all of that may sound, the film also deserves to be described as earnest, astute, insightful and thoroughly amusing. Brimming with well-observed scenarios, characters and emotions, it's the kind of movie that makes you feel like you might've seen it all before, only to delight you as you realise you haven't. Frankly, it's the type of flick you could easily imagine remade around an unhappy New Yorker. And yet despite that, it wears its local-and-proud-of-it heart on its sleeve — even while making jokes about the stereotype that no one watches Aussie films.
Indeed, this is a movie that is both universal and unmistakably Australian – and that's just one of many delicate balancing acts that That's Not Me achieves. Gags about Jared Leto and the superficial nature of the film industry sit alongside jabs at Neighbours and Home and Away, as well a brief appearance from Andrew O'Keefe. It takes a similar amount of skill to plot a story filled with highs and lows, while maintaining an awareness that life usually exists somewhere in between. The movie's look and feel further blends a variety of elements, from a fond but never rosy view of Melbourne, to music that leans towards the '80s without wallowing in nostalgia, to pacing that feels brisk but never rushed.
Of course the biggest juggling task sits with Foulcher, and not just because she's playing twins. Rather than filling the movie with sisters in the thick of sibling rivalry, this is really a flick about Polly's unrealised dreams, and Foulcher gives her character all of the dimensions you'd expect — plus some you might not. Her character's not always sympathetic, but she's certainly relatable, with the actress delivering an immensely likeable and layered turn. If there's any justice, this gem of a film will be remembered in the exact same way.