Aiming for adorable, unfortunately for Benny & Jolene it shares the least admirable aspects of loose music festival romance You Instead and Shane Meadows's underpowered music mockumentary Le Donk & Scor-zay-zee – there's just not enough meat on its bones.
Benny (Roberts, Submarine) and Jolene (Ritchie, Fresh Meat) are an indie folk duo whose first single has become a surprise hit. The burgeoning act haven't had a chance to develop before they are shuffled onto morning television, thrown into the studio, mistreated by the record company, and shunted onto the festival circuit. Jolene takes it all in her stride but Benny seems more interested in telling Jolene he loves her than playing at the Millennium Stadium. Packed into a camper van with their manager, PR 'guru' Nadia (Rosamund Hanson, This Is England) and more, the tight confines brings things to a head...
Never anything more than a passing fancy, Benny & Jolene tries too hard for that Office awkwardness and borrows too heavily from other movies, like the blatant rip off/homage to Spinal Tap (the no-show record signing, reading of reviews). The reliance on ad lib dialogue can work occasionally but when it doesn't it really doesn't and emphasises how underwritten the script is; where silence might say more than words, Roberts, Ritchie and co. prefer to fill any gap with inane chatter – as long as they keep talking they're doing their job it seems.
Roberts's doe-eyed guitarist is likeable but the actor’s delivery is off - Benny behaves like he has just met Jolene at a party and is completely smitten, not her song writing partner. He and Ritchie never give us a sense of history, of how long they've been together or what the relationship is. Ritchie moves from being completely oblivious to Roberts's lovelorn eyes to jealousy when he gets a girl's number and back again. The characters are inconsistent.
There are some fun bits – the back and forth does create a jovial atmosphere, while Hanson has a ball with her irritating PR rep – and first time director Jamie Adams spares us the tired mockumentary angle but this a comedy that's not fully formed. Benny & Jolene is a raw demo that shows promise but needed some slick production before its release.