Dir/scr: Jamie Adams. UK. 2014. 88mins
It may well have the façade of a genial comedy, but low-budget film Benny & Jolene’s attempt to offer up a bit of British mumblecore ends up being a rather plodding experience that never really takes full advantage of the talents of its two leads.
Roberts and Ritchie are excellent, but lack a real spark of much-needed chemistry.
Directed and written (though there seems be an awful lot of improvisation) by Jamie Adams over a five-day period, the real draw is Craig Roberts (Submarine) and Charlotte Ritchie (UK television’s Fresh Meat) as an indie folk duo and long friends struggling to adjust to new found fame and mulling over if they are in love with each other.
They are engaging and sweet-natured in the roles, though at times it feels like they are a bit adrift when a tighter story and script may have brought their characters into better focus. A large-ish support cast (for such a slight storyline) at times gets in the way and detracts from the will-they-won’t-they spine of the film.
As the film opens Benny (guitarist and song writer) and Jolene (singer) are off to sit on the couch at a breakfast television show, essentially a device for a little exposition on their back story and a chance to introduce some of the support characters (including a dopey PR, Jolene’s two mothers and their music manager).
Asked to ‘sex-up’ their on-stage routine to make them more populist, the pair struggle to adjust to their folk music fame, while Benny makes the mistake of admitting that he has long had a crush on Jolene, though she is somewhat unsure about her feelings.
Roberts and Ritchie are excellent, but lack a real spark of much-needed chemistry (maybe the short shooting time was just too short) while Rosamund Harrison provides some much-needed goofy charm as Nadia the PR girl, even is her character is ill-defined. The direction is all rather hit and miss despite good intentions, never quite fining he right balance in tone. Frustratingly, given Charlotte Ritchie has an excellent singing voice, there are never enough musical moments.
Production company: Jolene Films
Producer/editor: Jamie Adams
Executive producer: Jon Rennie
Cinematography: Ryan Owen
Music: Andy Lovegrove
Main cast: Craig Roberts, Charlotte Ritchie, Rosamund Hanson, Tom Rosenthal, Dolly Wells, Nick Mohammed, Ian Smith, Dolly Wells, Keiron Self