Now Add Honey

NOW ADD HONEY,  Australia, 2015.  Starring Robyn Butler, Portia De Rossi, Lucy Fry, Phillipa Coulthard, Lucinda Armstrong Hall, Hamish Blake, Erik Thomson, Robbie Magasiva, Lucy Durack, Angus Sampson, David Field. Directed by Wayne Hope. 95 minutes. Rated M (Nudity and coarse language)

The success of a comedy does not necessarily depend on the quality of the film itself – but, rather on the mood of the person watching the comedy at a particular time. This comedy has many moods, some funny, some serious, many somewhere in between. With the title, the Honey is not necessarily a sweetener. Which means a mixed response.

The film is the work of writer and star, Robyn Butler, and of her husband, director, Wayne Hope. Their contributions to television, The Librarians, Upper Middle Bogan have been much appreciated. Perhaps they work better in a brief running time format.

Here is a suburban Australian couple, she, Caroline, a lawyer, with two daughters, he a writer (who is soon discovered to be cheating on his wife), causing something of a breakdown – but not as much of a breakdown as the arrival of Caroline’s older sister, Beth (Portia De Rossi) with her precocious, ultra-spoilt, daughter, honey (Lucy Fry). Honey is about 16, going on 40 in precocity, going on 9 in terms of growing up. And her mother, self-absorbed except for promoting her daughter in Hollywood (where she has been successful in a series of films with the character, Monkey Girl). They have arrived in Australia to make a record – with a video which make might make Miley Cyrus blush!

It gets complicated at the airport with Beth having her special photographer into who is particularly demanding about light and angles. Then it gets worse when Beth is taken in by customs officials because of the amount of drugs, all for her health, of course, that she has in her cases – and she is soon sent off for rehabilitation leaving Honey stranded, to be taken in by the family.

While some of the satire on the ignorant and, perhaps, innocent, Honey has its moments, she is such an exasperating character, not only to the family but to the audience, so that a lot of it is rather hard to take. We do have great sympathy for Caroline, who is on the receiving end of a lot of barbs from Beth about her age, her looks…, Difficulties in getting time off at the office, but having some pleasant moments encountering a television chef. Then there is her younger sister, continually smarting about the description of her as fat in Beth’s biography and dealing with her fiance who, to put it politely, is rather dumb. And Caroline’s two daughters get involved, one a fan and the other definitely not.

There is a sleazy photographer wanting to get in on the act and to do some exploitative stuff with Honey who, bewildered and a touch of eventual against her mother and the family, decides to go through with it – with some slapstick comedy in the family’s attempts to rescue her.

There is a lot going on in the film, perhaps too much for its brief running time, but, if it catches you in the mood, you may well enjoy its comic touches. On the other hand, if…

Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.

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