Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Wayne Hope
Stars: Robyn Butler, Portia De Rossi, Lucy Durack, Hamish Blake, Lucy Fry, Angus Sampson, Philippa Coulthard, Erik Thompson, David Field, Robbie Magasiva, Ben Lawson.
We’ve seen lots of films depicting dysfunctional families, and we can now add the the field this grating and largely unfunny locally made comedy that focuses on the Morgan family. A few years ago there was a rather dreary comedy entitled Did You Hear About The Morgans?, and the answer then was a resounding “I wish I hadn’t”. Much the same answer applies to this film. No amount of sugar coating can help make this raucous comedy more appealing.
Caroline Morgan (played by Robyn Butler) is a high powered commercial property lawyer who is married to Richard (Erik Thompson, from Packed To The Rafters, etc), a neurotic author of self-help books who is suffering from writer’s block. Her sister Beth (Portia de Rossi, from Ally McBeal, etc) has established herself in Hollywood as the narcissistic and pushy mother of precocious teen superstar actress Honey (Lucy Fry, from Vampire Academy, etc), a ditzy blonde bimbo who actually makes the Kardashians look like Mensa graduates. Honey is the star of a series of kid friendly movies about Monkey Girl, but she is about to make her breakthrough as a pop superstar, with a raunchy video that makes Miley Cyrus seem positively G-rated.
When Beth and Honey return home briefly for a visit their presence throws the family into disarray, and chaos follows. Beth is addicted to pills and is immediately arrested for smuggling pills into the country. She is sent off to rehab, leaving Caroline and her family to look after Honey in the interim in their modest little suburban home, which is a far cry from the luxury that Honey is used to. Honey has her own entourage of hair dressers, minders, personal assistants and chauffeurs, but when forced to try and cope without them she flounders.
Meanwhile, Caroline discovers that Richard is having an affair and she is thrown into an emotional tailspin. While trying to deal with the petulant Honey and her childlike tantums, Caroline finds that her job is also in jeopardy. Her tomboyish daughter Clare (Philippa Coulthard) resents Honey’s annoying presence. Add to the mix is Caroline’s selfish younger sister Katie (stage actress Lucy Durack, from Wicked, etc), who is still angry at Beth for cutting comments made in her recent tell-all book, and her bumbling fiance (Hamish Blake). And there is also the annoying presence of a sleazy photographer (played by Angus Sampson) who is trying to get pictures of Honey that will earn him a small fortune.
The film is the brainchild of writer Robyn Butler, who wrote the script with her director husband Wayne Hope, who has worked on television series like Upper Middle Bogan, The Librarians, etc), but this one fails to make the grade. Maybe their comedic sensibilities are better suited to the small screen and a half hour sitcom format. The film offers up a critique of celebrity culture, body image, the sexualisation of today’s teenaged pop stars, the vacuous nature of today’s teens, infidelity, and the hardships faced by working mothers in today’s world, but it fails to really deliver any great insights.
There is a lack of subtlety to the material, which delivers its attempts at humour with a sledgehammer approach. This is a very busy film with lots of subplots that feel shoehorned in, and a gallery of quirky peripheral characters who make little lasting impression. Hope does manage to bring a lot of energy to the material and he keeps things moving along at a reasonably fast pace. The film is patchy, but it does manage to deliver a few laugh out loud moments. Overall though it is tonally uneven, with a cringeworthy finale that is tasteless and badly misjudged.
Most of the characters are broad caricatures, and very few of them ring true. Butler and Hope exploit their flaws and quirky nature for some laughs. Butler, in a role she wrote for herself, is good as the increasingly frazzled and flustered Caroline. De Rossi makes the most of her thoroughly nasty and self-absorbed character, who has undergone numerous cosmetic enhancements, but she is fairly one-dimensional. Fry in particular has a shrill and grating presence as the insufferable Honey; Sampson is over the top as the sleazy photographer, a role that suits his usual screen persona; and while Blake is likeable enough he just seems to be playing himself and going through the motions. Ben Lawson is also something of a caricature as Honey’s high powered and demanding American manager. David Field and New Zealand actor Robbie Magasiva (Sione’s Wedding, etc) round out the supporting cast as Caroline’s boss and a celebrity chef respectively.
Now Add Honey is another cringeworthy Australian made comedy that will struggle to resonate with audiences. There was plenty of potential in the scenario for a great comedy, but ultimately it doesn’t quite work as either a screwball comedy or a tale about female empowerment. Maybe it will appeal more to female audiences, but I doubt it.