Benny & Jolene (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner28/02/2014

Two out of Five stars
Running time: 83 mins

Despite the presence of its two talented stars, Benny & Jolene never quite strikes the right note and is ultimately a frustrating experience, let down by an over-reliance on improvisation, an irritating story structure, poor direction and a baffling lack of actual singing.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jamie Adams and shot over five days, Benny & Jolene stars Craig Roberts (Submarine) and Charlotte Ritchie (TV's Fresh Meat) as indie folk duo and life-long friends Benny & Jolene, whose career gets an unexpected boost when they are asked to perform at a Welsh music festival. Suddenly, their management team kicks into high gear, assigning them a dopey PR representative (Rosamund Hanson) and making a series of increasingly irksome requests aimed at sexing up their image. At the same time, Benny complicates things by revealing he has a crush on Jolene, so they attempt to take their relationship to the next level, even though Jolene isn't quite sure of her feelings.

The Good
Craig Roberts and Charlotte Ritchie are both extremely talented comic actors, but there's no chemistry between them and they both struggle under the weight of a presumably heavily improvised script, with every scene going on far too long, to the point where the conversations start repeating themselves. As such, it's impossible to watch the film without constantly speculating on how much better it might have been with a traditional script and more than five days to shoot it in.

On top of that, there are far too many supporting characters, all of whom are extremely one-note, though Rosamund Harrison is good value as Nadia (even if the script doesn't seem to understand what a PR's job actually entails) and Dolly Wells is excellent as Charlotte's mother, one of the only characters that actually feels believable.

The Bad
Adams' direction is all over the place - he has no sense of comic timing or how to end a scene, so each (frequently repeated) gag is played out endlessly; even the potentially hilarious sex scene, which starts out funny and should have been the film's central comic set piece, is allowed to drag on well past the point where it stops being amusing. To make matters worse, that exact same joke is repeated a few scenes later, to equally disappointing effect.

On top of that, the film is further hampered by an irritating story structure, in that it's shot mock-doc style, but without pretending to be a documentary. Similarly, given that both Ritchie and Roberts clearly have great singing voices (and some musical ability), the film has a baffling lack of scenes of them actually singing together.

Worth seeing?
Benny & Jolene is a disappointing British comedy that squanders both its talented cast and its inherent comic potential, thanks to poorly conceived improvisation, a frustrating story structure and noisy direction that fails to make the gags, the music or the central relationship work.

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Content updated: 23/10/2017 10:28

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