Film review: Benny & Jolene

Director: Jamie Adams
Exclusively at IFI 

PERHAPS the most odious thing about Benny & Jolene is the notions that it has about its own wit. Pegging itself as a gag-athon road-movie/mock-rockumentary in keeping with the finest comedic traditions of Ricky Gervais, it feels that it can bring a new breadth of hilarity to the peerless Spinal Tap mould. How dare it, quite frankly.

That it underperforms was never going to be a surprise, but there are offences happening at a few levels of Jamie Adams’s debut that turn an underwhelming film into an outright mistake on everyone’s part.

Craig Roberts (who lit up Richard Ayoade’s Submarine) and Charlotte Ritchie faff about for 88 minutes as the titular freak-folk duo who find themselves with a surprise hit on their hands before they can even really play. Off they go on a tour of Wales with their manager and PR girl (This Is England’s Rosamund Hanson). Every comic device is knackered; they’re given an old camper van instead of a tourbus; no one turns up to their record store signing; they read reviews of their music that are nearly as scathing as this one.

All along, Benny is holding a candle for Jolene leading to all sorts of inane flapping and overcooked interactions that, like the dire, lazy script, miss the runway altogether. It’s despairing to watch and a cautionary reminder that improv and underwriting are strictly for masters.

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Published by

Hilary A White

Dublin-based arts journalist and reviewer, specialising in film, books, music and human-interest stories. Sunday Independent / Irish Independent / State.ie / RTE Radio 1 / Today FM

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