#SXSW: “PAUL DOOD’S DEADLY LUNCH BREAK”
Review by David Baldwin
Paul Dood (Tom Meeten) wants to be famous. He has the costume, the dance routine and the ambition to win the national talent competition. Except everyone treats him like a walking punchline, and his attempts at getting to the audition are thwarted by the narcissistic actions of five different individuals. Distraught over missing his shot, Paul swears revenge and plans a deadly rampage lunch break against everyone who wronged him.
PAUL DOOD’S DEADLY LUNCH BREAK is light and deeply silly fun. The Film does not take itself seriously whatsoever, with its outrageous title merely hinting at the Film’s wildly over-the-top nature. It has a lot of heart amidst all of the absurdity, though some of the more fantastical tonal pivots may prove off-putting for some viewers. I was on board for the chaotic ride Co-Writer/Director Nick Gillespie takes us on, yet found myself unsure of what he was going for in some instances. The amount of style oozing from the Film is palpable (as are the eclectic song choices), but the sheer level of nonsense tends to push it away from being more substantial. Are we supposed to be laughing at Paul and his pain or cheering for him as all hell starts to break loose? Are we supposed to empathize with the plight of Mandeep Dhillon’s clearly mistreated character PSCO Miles, or hope that Paul stays three steps ahead of her and the rest of the police? None of this is immediately clear, and it only gets murkier as the Film’s satirical elements start being emphasized deep into the Second Act. Truthfully, I think many of these issues could have been improved and avoided if the editing was slightly more cohesive.
That said, the Supporting Cast is having a blast throughout PAUL DOOD’S DEADLY LUNCH BREAK, keenly aware of the Film’s ever-evolving tone. Dhillon is one of the Film’s clear standouts, as are June Watson as Paul’s Mum Julie and Katherine Parkinson as Paul’s crush Clemmie. They all pale in comparison to Meeten however, who commits to the role of Paul as if his very life depended on it. His comedic range is terrific and he manages to be continually captivating no matter what the story is asking of him. He is Paul Dood, and watching him is like watching a master artist at work. Meeten knows he is not acting in Shakespearean theatre, but you would never guess otherwise from how strong his performance is.
PAUL DOOD’S DEADLY LUNCH BREAK screens at SXSW Wednesday, March 17, 2021 starting at 5 PM.