Doing Time for Patsy Cline”

















Cast (in credits order)

Richard Roxburgh



Miranda Otto



Matt Day



Tony Barry



Roy Billing



Colette Brus



Annie Byron



Tyler Coppin


Bobby Joe

Laurence Coy



Shayne Francis


TV Reporter

Tom Long


Brad Goodall

Gus Mercurio



Kiri Paramore



Wayne Pygram


Geoff Spinks

Jeff Truman



Frank Whitten



Wayne Goodwin








Produced by


Chris Kennedy




John Winter







Original music by


Peter Best







Cinematography by

Andrew Lesnie






Film Editing by

Ken Sallows






Production Design by

Roger Ford






Art Direction by

Laurie Faen




Cowboy Booking International (USA)
Dendy Films (Australia)
Southern Star Film Sales (international sales)





The following figures were obtained from the Internet movie database


Canada……..5th September 1997 (Toronto Film Festival)

Australia……25th  September 1997

Singapore…..19th April 1998 (Singapore International Film Festival)

Italy…………28th August 1998

Poland………4th September 1998




The following figures were obtained from

In its first week of release over 12,000 people went to see the film.  “Doing Time for Patsy Cline” was rated in the top ten of films released (9th) for the week (Thurs-Sun) dating September 25-28 in Australia.




Weeks in



+/- %

Total $

Position in the


Sept 25-28






Oct 9-12






Oct 16-19






Oct 23-26









The following articles were found in; The Australian and Weekend Australian newspapers:


Romantic Friction Wed 8 Oct 1997, Ed1, Pg B31 Helen Garner


Giddy Up Cowboys  Sat 27 Sept 1997, Ed1, Pg R23 Evan Williams


The Critical Guide Fri 26 Sept 1997, Ed1, Pg D17 David Stratton, David Williams and Lynden Barber


Safety first in Patsy’s Lead Role Tues 10 June 1997, Ed1, Pg O12 Lynden Barber






There was a substantial online presence for the film.  Most of the coverage lies in the form of reviews and interviews with the lead actors.  The Internet movie database is a highly valuable site that contains much information and would be perhaps the most referenced, however there are many others some of which I have listed below.






Turning to the Internet, as my primary source of research, I generated countless entries when writing “Australian Film Reviews” into search engines like Google.  Baffled by the Murdoch library’s loose filing system  I searched through journal papers like Encore and Cinema Papers manually.  I found it impossible to find the correctly dated one for 1997 and even more impossible to find “Doing Time for Patsy Cline”.  I’m sure this is not representative of its lack of mainstream success or its value on the film milieu in its time.  In response to my dismay I researched both magazines on the Internet and found listings.




Funded by the AFC and N.S.W Film and Television office.

The funding was awarded on the strength of the script and due to the success of Chris Kennedy’s previous film; “This Won’t Hurt a Bit”.




Following a passion for country music Ralph (Matt Day), leaves his father’s sheep farm in a remote Australian town, armed with a guitar and a plane ticket to Nashville Tennessee.  He hopes to hitchhike  to Sydney Airport where his take-off into a successful country/western singing career will hopefully begin. 

However fate and his naivety  find him hitchhiking with a psychotic drug thief (Richard Roxbourgh) and his mesmerising girlfriend Patsy (Miranda Otto).  The plot then splits into a series of parallels,  flash forwards and flashbacks. One depicts Ralph’s imprisonment after being framed for drug trafficking.  The other follows the dramatic ascent of his career to hype status and the pairing between the dynamic Patsy and himself.  Both paths eventually lead him home, more mature and adjusted with a bag full of experiences.






Trying to locate this film in a video store is a nightmare.  You can search for hours through comedy, music, drama and romance. Only to find that its wedged between the Hollywood blockbusters  in the action section.  My original displacement is due to the fact that “Doing Time for Patsy Cline” is a film that has many strings to its bow.  It does not incorporate the stylistic norms that usually fall under the ‘action’ banner.  There is no fast paced climax with exorbitant special effects or rapid editing cuts.  The general look of the film I like to liken to a “romance with the sunset”.  Andrew Lesnie, the cinematographer, produces a warm feel to the film, not unlike his previous work “Babe” (1995).  This look is strengthened by the musical tracks of the film being typically country and western with the warm sounds of the streelstring guitar.  “Doing Time for Patsy Cline” is a “quirky” type of action that is soon becoming a typically Australian trademark. Deb Verhoeven (2000 pp30-33) defines the quirk as “…to strive to stand out from the flock”.  Chris Kennedy indeed does this with his clever screenplay and characterisation.  Take for example Ralph’s father warning him not to bring any thin-hipped girls back to his farm.  The quirk evident throughout his film gives it a particularly Australian feel.



“Doing Time for Patsy Cline” at first glance is forgrounded by the common theme of mateship and romance.  Deconstructed, the film works on a variety of levels touching on varied themes. One such idea is that there is a struggle between those growing up in isolated provinces and the grasping of a cultural identity.  With an Australian lifestyle so infiltrated with American culture, “Doing Time For Patsy Cline” deals with the defining of a new cultural landscape that is not typically American but a morphing of the two.  Ralph leaves his home on a N.S.W sheep farm in search of something better.  He leaves his ocker father, extensive knowledge of the merino sheep, the earthy landscape and the dust and grime.  He wants a piece of the glamour that is the country/western lifestyle.  Icons of American cultural dominance dot his journey.  The small town he passes through has a country/western festival.  The police officer guarding his cell has pictures from his trip to Disneyland to exploit.  Boot scooting can be seen through his cell window.  It is an Australian urban landscape open to a cultural redefinition.  Then, the return of Ralph to his life on the sheep farm after his adventure can be read as symbolic for Australia’s resistance to American cultural imperialism.  Ralph’s father stands a symbol of resistance to this change just by his ocker characterisation.


The theme of isolation is also apparent in relation to the characters.  The road movie feel, focus on the central characters and the shots of open Australian plains show the characters not only geographically isolated but socially too.   The relationship between Boyd and Patsy is such that they’re doomed to each other for a support that they can not get anywhere else.  Patsy states that Boyd looks after her.  Boyd despite his inability to admit his emotional dependence on her, is a slave to his feelings despite reacting in an abusive manner.  The film provokes comments of masculinity. Boyd falls into the gender stereotype of being the rugged, smooth bloke always ready for a fight, like many Australian heroes before him.  He also demonstrates an inability to show his feelings, which nearly causes him to lose the one thing that he cares the most about - Patsy.  Ralph’s father also displays this trait.  Upon Ralph’s leaving the sheep farm, he gives his son the man to man lecture and leaves the emotional goodbyes to his wife.  However it is apparent through the subplot that he is equally worried and emotional about the well-being of his son. Take for example, the quirky insertion of scenes of his bedridden sickness.  Upon the receival of a postcard from Ralph he leaps straight out of bed and back to his “hard yakka”.  A poignant comment on the Australian male.  He’s no softie, or if he is, only he knows it.





It would seem that “Doing Time for Patsy Cline” at its time of release had stiff competitors for critical acclaim.  Released the same time as  “Idiot Box” (1996 David Caesar) and “Kiss or Kill” (1997 Bill Bennett) which are impressive and remembered for their quirky eccentric account of the mundane and quirky manipulation of stylistic and generic elements respectively.  These two films seem to be points of discussion in many film schools, including Murdoch, however, “Doing Time for Patsy Cline” seems to have faded into the back of the memory.


Despite this, at the time of release, the film was given much festival acclaim.  It was nominated for 10 AFI awards and took out; Best Cinematography, Best Costume Design, Most Original Music Score and Best Actor.  The Australian Cinematographers Society in 1998, awarded Andrew Lesnie an award of distinction for his work on the feature. In 1997 The Australian Writers Guild awarded it “Most Original Feature Film”.  The Film Critic Circle of Australia in 1998 awarded best actor, cinematography and music to the film.  Finally, The San Diego International Film Festival acclaimed Chris Kennedy with a “Special Achievement Award” for his efforts on the screenplay.





Chris Kennedy debuted with his film “Glass” (1989). He then proved his abilities as a scriptwriter and director with “This Won’t Hurt a Bit” (1993) a successful comedy that drew on his experiences as a dentist.


“Doing Time for Patsy Cline” seemed to be the initiation of a coupling between Andrew Lesnie (cinematographer), John Winter (Producer) and Peter Best (Music Composer).  Who joined forces and later produced together films such as “The Sugar Factory” (1999) and “My Mother Frank” (2000).


Filmography's (incomplete/summary)


Andrew Lesnie (Cinematographer)

-Lord of the Rings (2001)(2002)(2003)

-The Sugar Factory (1999)

-Babe: Pig in the City (1998)

-Doing Time for Patsy Cline (1997)

-Two if By Sea (1996)

-Babe (1995)

-Spider and Rose (1994)

-You Seng (1993)

-The Girl Who Came Late (1991)


John Winter (Producer)

-Rabbit Proof Fence (2002)

-My Mother Frank (2000)

-Paperback Hero (1998)

-Doing Time for Patsy Cline (1997)


Peter Best (Original Music)

-My Mother Frank (2000)

-The Sugar Factory (1999)

-Muriel’s Wedding (1994)

-Crocodile Dundee (1986)

-Bliss (1985)

-The Adventures of Barry McKenzie (1972)



“Doing Time for Patsy Cline” is a film that rides on its actors successes, in particular in my opinion, Miranda Otto’s performance.  Her raw beauty, and enchanting singing voice make the film visually and emotionally captivating.  Director Stavros Kazantzidis in his film, “True Love and Chaos” (1997) utilises her vocal talent, whereby she sings Blondie favourite “Union City Blue”, which becomes a motif for the film in much the same way as “Dead Red Roses” does for “Doing Time for Patsy Cline”. Her previous work seem to lend her to a demure, naïve, childlike typecasting.  Her filmography includes titles such as “The Last Days of Chez Nous” (Gillian Armstrong 1992), “The Well” (Samantha Lang, 1997 ), “In the Winter Dark” ( James Bogle 1998 ) “Love Serenade” (Shirley Barret 1996) and “The Nostradamus Kid” (Bob Ellis 1993). 


At the time of filming “Doing Time for Patsy Cline”, Matt Day (Ralph) was also acting in Bill Bennett’s “Kiss or Kill” (1997). In response to them both being genre films he said in an interview to ‘Urban cinefile’ “I think it’s a sign of maturity that we can start doing genre movies” (1997).  He was referring to his maturation as an actor.  However the quote can be related to Australia’s progress as a national cinema.  Prior to “Doing Time for Patsy Cline”, he was involved in P.J Hogan’s international success “Muriel’s Wedding” (1994).  In relation to this, his role in “Patsy” was very similar in terms of characterisation.  No doubt his presence in “Muriel’s Wedding” gave it the advantage of a well known star.  Matt Day’s filmography includes titles such as: “Love and Other Catastrophes” (Emma-Kate Croghan 1996), “Dating the Enemy”, “Muriel’s Wedding” (P.J Hogan 1994) and Dating the Enemy. (1996)

Richard Roxbourgh, the principle actor, formed a romantic alliance with Miranda Otto and subsequently went on to co-star with her in “In the Winter Dark”.  He also built himself a name as a television personality, his work including: “Blonde” (2001), “The Road from Coorain” (2001).  He also gave a vast contribution to the arena of film, showing his diversity as an actor.  His filmography includes: “Oscar and Lucinda” (Gillian Armstrong 1997), Thank God he met Lizzie (1997), “Children of the Revolution”(1996) and “Moulin Rouge” (2001 Baz Lurhman)




Tom O’Regan defines the Australian National Cinema as a mundane cinema.  He was referring to how we question and divide value between different national cinemas.  The entitling of our ANC as “mundane” is due to our critics and audiences  identifying with the ‘ordinariness’ of our films and placing them in relation to more prestigious or “art house” national cinemas. Our stories, and indeed my example “Doing Time for Patsy Cline” often present ordinary Australians in ordinary situations.  Ralph’s father, for example, is as Australian as they come.  Ralph is an ordinary teenager, not a stunning beauty and does not possess some heroic talent or trait.  It is this signpost quirky ordinariness of Australian cinema that has almost lent it to a genre of its own.  It is this cultural value and quirkiness that allows our films to compete with Hollywood in the local arena.

Our position as a medium-sized English language cinema means that our markets include those of English speaking audiences.  Our main competitors are therefore the USA and the UK.  With the size, funds available and level of market establishment of Hollywood cinema, British and Australian national cinemas act to supplement what they have to established.  Hollywood market dominance often sees Australian National Cinema films channeled into art films, short films and festival streams.  Often this festival circulation can accumulate some “prestige” in the international film landscape.  The independent Australian film and films like “Doing Time for Patsy Cline” aid in defining the meaning of Australian film and culture and retain their marketability by maintaining their “quirk”.  An example of the critical uptake could be Chris Kennedy receiving festival acclaim in the Toronto Festival for his screenplay.


"Australians routinely hold Hollywood film-making, British cinema and television and the European and now Asian cinema in higher esteem than the local product " (O’Regan. 1996, p.215).


Due to the size of our national cinema and the fact that our industry is quite young, many actors or film technicians have to migrate to America to seek higher employment or recognition for their art.  Matt Day in an interview with Urban cinefile explained that after his successes with “Muriel’s Wedding” he had acquired an agent in America. Andrew Lesnie moved to America and joined the crew for “The Lord of the Rings Trilogy”. One way of viewing our national cinema is a  learning pool for actors, cinematographers, producers etc. with talent moving to greener  pastures where there is higher budgets and international success. 


With all this migration and with the winding down of the 10 BA tax incentives of the 80’s, in the 1990’s and beyond it is getting harder and harder to decipher what is an Australian film.  With the FFC taking over the funding and a trend toward private and international investments it has been suggested that films becoming less stereotypically Australian and lending to a more multicultural interpretation.  “Doing Time For Patsy Cline” obviously alludes to the American cultural understanding.  Part of the film is set in Nashville and all the other parts follow the American dream of fame and fortune.  However, this film is so quirky and amusing due to its distinct Australian type humour, one can not mistake it for anything less.









O’Regan, Tom (1996) Australian National Cinema Routledge pg. 215


Verhoeven, Deb (2000) History of Cheap Guffaws in Cinema Papers, 134, Aug/Sept 2000, pg30-33