Film review: Benny and Jolene

Benny and Jolene

Benny and Jolene

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The worst thing about Benny & Jolene is not that it’s a bad film - though it undoubtedly is - it’s that it should have been so much better.

Brit director Jamie Adams has snared two hot young leads in the form of Craig Roberts (Submarine) and Charlotte Ritchie (Fresh Meat) for his debut - about an indie folk duo seemingly destined for big things.

Both certainly look the part; Roberts’ performance channelling a young Alex Turner and Ritchie transforming herself into the UK’s answer to Zooey Deschanel.

There’s also a talented supporting cast, including the wonderful Rosamund Hanson (This is England), while the pitch - two normal youngsters sucked into the devilish machinations of the music industry - is promising.

But the whole enterprise is let down by an underwritten script, slapdash direction and plot developments which range from the wilfully contrived to the breathtakingly ludicrous.

The story - as it is - sees Benny and Jolene already making inroads into the music business. They have a hit single, have just made their television debut, and are being groomed for stardom. They’re booked on the bill of a big music festival in Wales, so set off on a ramshackle tour bus - adding a physical voyage to the metaphorical ‘journey’ the writers are clearly so keen to explore.

The issues are manifold, but top of the list is that there is no logical progression to the main characters’ relationship, with most of their actions appearing to be entirely without motivation. Nowhere is this more evident than in an excruciating early scene where the pair clumsily attempt to seduce each other.

As it’s (supposedly) a comedy, this could be all forgiven if there was a whip-smart script. Sadly, Adams instead opts for the improvisation model so beloved on the other side of the Atlantic. Clearly they are going for a British version of a Judd Apatow film, but it comes across as a big screen The Only Way Is Essex - all poor timing, fluffed lines and awkward silences.

It’s also unhelpful that the framing device makes no sense, with no reason given for a mockumentary format, while the baffling lack of actual singing means there’s not even a decent tune to while away some of the blessedly-short running time.