Brenda Blethyn's trademark histrionics—maternal blubbering and drama-queen shrillness—worked smashingly for her intentionally trying role in Secrets & Lies, but her central performance in Introducing the Dwights sees these traits amped to a rather squirmy 11. Misleadingly (if more interestingly) titled Clubland when it screened at this year's Sundance, director Cherie Nowlan's patchy Australian dramedy stars Blethyn as divorcée Jean, a once-famous bawdy comedienne who can't accept that she's past her prime. Oblivious to how her egomaniacal control issues are cock-blocking both of her sons, Jean is primarily stressing out strapping, 20-year-old mama's boy Tim (Khan Chittenden), whose fear of losing his virginity to insecure but totally horny Jill (Emma Booth) takes an unintentionally Oedipal bent whenever he runs home to support his mother's Benny Hill–esque act instead. Other son Mark (Richard Wilson) is slightly brain-damaged and dubiously written as the idiot-savant butt of many a gentle joke, which might have worked had the actor been more convincing (his girlfriend is played by a mentally retarded actress; why wasn't he?). With its broad, toothless humor and ham-fisted fits of melodrama, this sitcom-grade embarrassment aims to dethrone Muriel's Wedding as the quirky Aussie feel-gooder of all time, except it hurts too much to watch.
Blethen needs the limelight like oxygen.
Introducing the Dwights
Opens at Guild 45 and Pacific Place, Fri., July 13. Rated R. 108 minutes.