The Movie Waffler New Release Review - <i>Benny & Jolene</i> | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - Benny & Jolene

A young folk duo embark on a disastrous trip to a music festival.

Directed by: Jamie Adams
Starring: Craig Roberts, Charlotte Ritchie, Rosamund Hanson, Dolly Wells

The young folk duo of Benny (Roberts) and Jolene (Ritchie) have just signed a promising deal with a record company. Problem is, the music industry types are only interested in marketing Jolene as an attractive pop star, and don't care too much for the morose and cynical Benny. Their first gig is lined up at a festival in Wales and so the duo embark - along with their entourage, which includes Jolene's lesbian mothers - on a road trip that tests their personal and professional relationship.
How large is Wales? Looking at a map, it appears roughly half the size of Ireland, which I've traversed numerous times in roughly three hours, coast to coast. The Welsh road trip seen here, however, seems to take longer than a trip from Belfast to Belgrade. That said, geography is the least of Benny & Jolene's problems. It's a three chord comedy with three less laughs.
Not so much Spinal Tap as frontal lobotomy, Jamie Adams' heavily improvised movie borrows the fly on the wall TV sitcom style pioneered by The Office. Here, however, there's no camera crew documenting events; the shaky cam and jump cuts are a purely aesthetic gimmick.
With the likes of Tap and The Office, we were left in no doubt as to who we should be laughing at and with, an important distinction never made clear here. The music made by the title duo sounds like so much run of the mill indie fare that we can't figure out whether we're being asked to laugh at their lack of talent, or sympathise with them as the music industry breaks their spirit. Ultimately, any request for laughter is met with stony silence; this is the least funny comedy you'll endure all year.
Though it's likely down to lazy characterisation rather than any genuine ill will, Benny & Jolene comes across as exceptionally misogynistic. We're asked to get behind Benny's quest to transform the status of his relationship with Jolene from professional to romantic, but he's a deeply unlikeable individual, a self-entitled, obnoxious, immature man-child who makes no effort to endear himself to Jolene. Jolene is no saint either, a narcissistic bimbo with few redeeming qualities. If we wish for this couple to hook up, it can only be to prevent anyone else having to deal with them.

Eric Hillis