We’ve all been to a concert that just felt … sad. Whether it’s seeing a friend’s band – attended by their friends, family and that’s it – or a dismal turnout for a once-legendary band, there’s nothing like the oppressive awkwardness of underattended gig. Meal Tickets – for better and for worse – distils that feeling into an uncomfortable 93-minute documentary.
The film follows the mates of director Mat de Koning: an up-and-coming Australian band called the Screwtop Detonators, and their one-time roadie who sets out on his own path to stardom. For a moment, you see why de Koning has faith in these guys – they’re young, attractive, and represented by the Libertines’ “ex-mentor” Dave Kavanagh – but it quickly becomes clear that this is a path strewn with broken dreams and limited talents.
Shot over ten years, I’m not sure how much of this deep-seated sadness is intentional – de Koning seems to buy into the lackadaisical, profoundly egotistical atmosphere cultivated by the young bang members – but it resonates nonetheless. Most of these films are split between rise-and-fall; these guys never really get going. There’s a killer punchline, though: the one guy you recognise? He’s not a famous singer; he was just a Bachelorette contestant.