'Wild Honey Pie!': Film Review | SXSW 2018
Jemima Kirke ('Girls') stars opposite Richard Elis in this low-key British comedy about marriage, sex and disappointment from writer-director Jamie Adams.
Writer-director Jamie Adams, whose résumé includes low-budget niche efforts such as Black Mountain Poets and Benny & Jolene, continues to explore the world of arty bohemian Brits with his latest, Wales-set lo-fi sex comedy Wild Honey Pie! Some of the players from the troupe of performers who have collaborated with Adams before pitch in again here, such as Alice Lowe (Sightseers) and former soap opera EastEnders regular Richard Elis. But for all intents and purposes, this is a vehicle for Jemima Kirke, erstwhile co-star of Girls. Playing an impulsive, semi-posh but abundantly tattooed toff whose carnal energy exerts a weirdly powerful gravitational pull on those around her, Kirke’s protagonist feels like someone we’ve met before. Basically, she’s a variation on Girls’ Jessa, but with fewer Yank inflections in the accent and slightly more focused ambitions.
A high tolerance for entitled millennials and their angst is a must for prospective viewers, especially ones willing to overlook shambolic plot maneuvers and frankly thinly-written characters, but the magic-hour shots of fetching Welsh beaches, well-meaning performances and a pretty soundtrack of indie tunes offer some compensations.
English Gillian (Kirke) and her Welsh husband Ollie (Elis) are, if not newlyweds, then at least not-long-weds in their late 20s/early 30s who haven’t quite launched themselves out of the nest. Living in a house on the coast not far from Cardiff that’s owned by Ollie’s mother (Joanna Scanlan) and seemingly decorated to appeal to impecunious AirBnB clients, they’re just about getting by. Ollie earns a pittance as a DJ once a week and spins discs at the occasional wedding. Gillian, meanwhile, is directing a production she wrote herself about a young married couple struggling to understand themselves. Or maybe it’s a play with Shakespeare monologues in it, judging by one rehearsal scene — it’s not easy to work out from the evidence presented.
In any event, even though Gillian and Ollie are clearly best friends who share the same sense of absurdist humor and are well matched intellectually, their sex life is a bit vanilla for Gillian’s taste. On one less than plausible evening, Gillian gets bi-curious with prospective producer Gerry (Lowe, in fine comic fettle), while Ollie has a snog with old flame Rachel (Sarah Solemani), exactly the kind of more conventional but still likable young woman he probably would have married had he not met Gillian. The parallel infidelities are semi-confessed the next day (Gillian doesn’t cop to everything), and the young marrieds try to mend things. But then practically minutes later, Gillian’s committing adultery again, this time with plebian Matt (Brett Goldstein), one of Ollie’s best friends, who has just declared love via some astonishingly dreadful verse.
Editor Adelina Bichis clearly had a challenge before her assembling something that makes any kind of linear logical sense and employs jagged jump cuts and quickfire flashbacks to cover the cracks and fill in the psychological gaps. Nevertheless, motivations are sufficiently confusing that Kirke’s Gillian must be given to speaking her thoughts about her relationships out loud in a feverish mumble, just in case we didn’t quite get what’s going through her crazy little head. There’s a parallel in the use of Shakespeare monologues in the first half of the film, but even so the device seems shoe-horned in as an afterthought.
It’s a tribute to Kirke charisma and pungency as a performer that she just about pulls these scenes off and looks convincing as a greasy-haired contemporary femme, fatal (nearly) only to herself.
Production company: Twenty Dollar
Cast: Jemima Kirke, Alice Lowe, Sarah Solemani, Brett Goldstein, Joanna Scanlon, Richard Elis, Dan Clark, William Thomas
Director-screenwriter: Jamie Adams
Producers: Maggie Monteith, Jamie Adams, Jason Maza, David Wade, Noel Clarke
Executive producer: Chris Reed
Director of photography: Bet Rourich
Production designer: Rachel Jammali
Editor: Adelina Bichis
Music: Ashley Adams
Venue: SXSW Film Festival (Visions)
Sales: Twenty Dollar Pictures