Movie Review

Benny and Jolene – Movie Review

Benny and Jolene

Benny and Jolene – Review by Emily Elphinstone

Director: Jamie Adams
Writer: Jamie Adams
Stars: Craig Roberts, Rosamund Hanson, Dolly Wells

Telling the story of an up-and-coming indie-folk duo as they’re swept up by the music industry machine, and promised the world; Benny and Jolene is the debut feature film by writer/ director Jamie Adams.

Things look promising in the opening minutes of the film, as we see Benny (Submarine’s Craig Roberts) and Jolene (Fresh Meat’s Charlotte Ritchie) arrive for an appearance on television chat show ‘This Morning’; but as they are thrust into the limelight with awkward stories and an inability to formulate full sentences, it is clear that neither band member is entirely comfortable with their newfound success, after a hit debut album. Here lies the paradox of the film: though Benny and Jolene is presented as an exploration of the struggles of success, this highly awkward appearance is the only sign we see apart from the ever-present entourage. Likewise, for a band movie, there’s an alarming lack of singing involved.

The strength of this film lies in the central performances, as Roberts and Ritchie have great chemistry. Their awkwardness and vulnerability is emphasised by a partly improvised script, and it’s hard not to like the characters despite their flaws. There is also a strong supporting cast, with Rosamund Hanson’s dizzy PR girl, and Dolly Wells’s ever-present mother, shining in particular. However, some characters, including their manager (played by Keiron Self) feel less fleshed out, and details like the bickering ‘This Morning’ presenters are overshadowed by busy movement between scenes.

Unfortunately we are distracted from the quality of the performances by the film’s semi-mockumentary style, which forces comparison with classics like This is Spinal Tap, while failing to live up to their quality. The handheld camera work could have added to Benny and Jolene’s charm, but when topped off by an ever-wandering focus, it ultimately distracted from the film’s strengths, and made it difficult to know where to look. Though improvised elements added to the script and atmosphere, it also meant that some scenes dragged on too long, and the end was wrapped up too neatly and briskly, to be ultimately satisfying.

Though Benny and Jolene is a charming indie film with many amusing moments, the style distracts somewhat from the substance; meaning that though the performances, locations, and soundtrack are well put together, the overall product fails to live up to expectations.

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