The effort of youngsters to breakthrough into the music industry has become part of British pop culture this century due to the success of Simon Cowell’s popularity contests. It’s refreshing to see a film depicting a couple of dreamers who want to do things the old fashioned, old shall we say proper way. Benny and Jolene are a folk duo, played by rising stars Craig Roberts and Charlotte Ritchie respectively. Very much a personal project from debutant director Jamie Adams, who also wrote the screenplay. Filmed in just five days, this low-budget gem is full of natural charm and wit, having a sideways glance at the music biz and media circus that goes with it.
The road-movie is filmed in mockumentary style, tinged with awkwardness. Comparisons have been made to This Is Spinal Tap, the much-loved rock-mock from the eighties, and its influence is evident in the subtleness of the writing. The leads gel well with this style, and are the perfect fit to the quirkiness of the film as a whole. Craig Roberts, known best for his role in Submarine, is a natural at playing the socially inept misfit, and is now cropping up in big US comedies doing what he does best. Charlotte Ritchie shares a certain chemistry with him on screen and from working on Fresh Meat, she is used to working with sharp scripts laden with British humour. Their difference in height makes for very amusing physical comedy, particularly a sex scene that goes terribly, but by that point in proceedings typically, awry.
Benny & Jolene is a fun little ditty which showcases the talent of its stars, as well as serving as an impressive debut for Jamie Adams, demonstrating a fantastic knack for capturing moments of cringeworthy humour. Poking fun at the media types in a lax but effective manner, there are signs of substance behind the carefree indie persona, if you see past the hipster shades. As they go through the gawky gigs, dodgy TV spots and lapses in judgement, it soon becomes hard not to cheer for the not-so-rock n’ roll underdogs.