Benny & Jolene
Film Title: Benny & Jolene
Director: Jamie Adams
Starring: Charlotte Ritchie, Craig Roberts, Dolly Wells, Rosamund Hanson
Running Time: 88 min
Let’s get the excuses out of the way first. Shot for a mere €14,000, Jamie Adams’s feature debut took just a few busy days to film. This doesn’t make it any less terrible, but, armed with that knowledge, we can at least attest that it is terrible for a reason. It would be a genuine sin if serious money had been spent on such a weak, rheumy little beast. Leave it alone and pass by.
What we have here is an improvised comedy about a folk duo – weedy Benny (Craig Roberts) and annoying Jolene (Charlotte Ritchie) – on a tour of Wales after, apparently, securing some sort of surprise hit. We say “apparently” because, among the film’s lesser flaws, is an uncertainty about the level of its subjects’ fame. They begin by appearing on This Morning, but nobody outside their tour bus seems to have heard of them. Gigs are cancelled. Record labels screw up. Benny and Jolene flirt unconvincingly.
The overwhelming impression is of a cast trying desperately to fill up time before the film-makers release them from whatever indenture – blackmail, perhaps – keeps them tied to such a doomed project. Every scene is improvised into stuttering, muttering, directionless tedium, not in any way alleviated by the promiscuous jump cuts.
The endless repetitions are, ultimately, no less mannered and unconvincing than the cut-glass aphorisms from a Noel Coward play (and are a great deal less amusing).
It doesn’t help that at least three scenes have been lifted directly from This Is Spinal Tap: the arrival of compromised LP artwork, a deserted signing at a record shop, and the perusal of some astonishingly poor reviews.
Well, if they’re going to play that game then so can we. What day did the Lord create Benny & Jolene, and couldn’t he have rested on that day too?