You know that bit in Hereditary where Toni Collette repeatedly smashes her head against the ceiling? That’s like the metaphor for watching Bennett’s Song.
Okay, that’s super harsh. I’m sorry. A lot of effort goes into making a film, and a lot of people work hard, and so I always feel kind of bad when I know that I really didn’t like something. It’s not that Bennett’s Song is offensive, or even that it’s terrible, it’s just that it’s incredibly dull, meandering, poorly written and, well… okay, it’s bad. I’m sorry. I really am.
Telling the story of two forty-something people who think they’ll never find love but suddenly do, which each other, but then morphing into the story of two people who each have seven kids who somehow miraculously meet, decide to get married and then, one of the kids writes a song, or something. I don’t know. It doesn’t know what it wants to be. That’s part of the problem.
It plays out like three movies in one, with each act almost becoming it’s own short film. Bennett’s Song has its heart in the right place, but not much else. The dialogue is stiff and awkward, it very much tells the audience everything, rather than showing it, and it just goes on and on and on, never really going anywhere, and without even half as much meaning as it thinks it had.
Look, I like the idea of a film about a family made up of lots of different people from lots of different cultures, and I’ll admit that I can’t help enjoying anything that takes time out of it’s main plot to have a scene where characters sit down and explicitly discuss why racism is bad and racists are… well, dumb, but the problem here is that Bennett’s Song is constantly taking time out to focus on other things.
There are so many little subplots that just fizzle out or disappear entirely, there are scenes that seem to directly contradict things that happen next (weren’t the kids supposed to meet the dad’s new girlfriend? Wasn’t that a thing? Where the hell did that go?), and it jumps on any and every opportunity to have a “heartfelt” moment where one character announces their love for another or gives some emotional speech about something.
But perhaps Bennett’s Song’s biggest flaw is in its confusion about who it’s meant for. It looks like a drama, plays like a family comedy that should probably feature Steve Martin in the backend of his career, sounds like it thinks it’s something directed by Richard Curtis and never really meshes these disparate elements together into a cohesive or enjoyable whole.
I found it a struggle to get through, I’m not going to lie.
Normally when I dislike I movie I can sit down and consider just why, and normally it winds up being that it’s simply just not a movie for me (and seriously, I like everything. I think the Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore rom-com Music and Lyrics is woefully underappreciated and I will sing along to Pop! Goes My Heart if it ever comes up… no joke), but Bennett’s Song should, in theory hit the right notes for me. It’s got a good message, it works outside of the studio system and it doesn’t follow a strict conventional structure, but I just couldn’t like it.
Mostly what it comes down to is a poor script that needed a couple more rewrites and a director who knows when to aim for a big emotional moment and when to hold back and simply just allow a moment to be.
There were a couple of parts that made me smile, but mostly it just bored me. Endless conversation after endless conversation, with characters announcing how they feel (you can’t do that! That makes me feel angry!) and ideas that are never fully explored or developed. I was waiting for something to happen with Tara Reid’s neighbour, who takes an instant dislike to the family of… wait, let me do the math… seventeen – including the Grandma – but, ultimately, she winds up just being a bit of a dick with no real motive. She stops one character from using a video, but then returns it later anyway, and, in the end, everything is sort of just solved by a magic talk-show that apparently has the power to do absolutely everything.
I want to tell you to watch Bennett’s Song, an independently produced family comedy that tries something new and has a great message, but I can’t. It’s not quite Toni Collette smashing her head against the ceiling, but another half hour and it probably would have been.
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