“Buddymoon”

“Buddymoon”
Directed by Alex Simmons

279917The city of my residence, Chicago, is one of the great cultural centers of the world in every  medium…except cinema. Yes, we have a sensational film festival, plus a few other smaller festivals that are certainly worth the investment (Midwest independent Film Fest is a standout). But when it comes to indies, we’re kinda screwed. Even our two big art houses only play major releases. Of course there is the Siskel center, but my TV has a bigger screen and a more immersive sound system. So, imagine my surprise when Arclight Chicago announced a partnership with the Slamdance Film Festival, bringing us EIGHT of their 2016 Fest winners and honorable mentions over the next two months!!

The second in that series was “Honey Buddies”, winner of the Festival’s Audience Award, and possessing a name so terrible that even IMDB has it listed as “Buddymoon”. This light and lovely buddy-buddy road-trip comedy is well worth the effort to find it…if you can. The setup, thin as it is, centers around a former child star (played by David Giuntoli), who has been left by his fiance days before the wedding. Having not yet cancelled his honeymoon camping trip, his best friend, the German comedian, Flula Borg, convinces him that they should take the trip together as a means of healing. And the hilarity ensues…sort of…

Director Alex Simmons, on an amazingly tight budget and schedule, has created a fairly well-paced comedy…a comedy which depends almost solely on the improv capabilities of his main characters. It is evident that the script was written on the fly – and perhaps well after the shooting process – as the movement between plot points and act structure are painfully herky-jerky. One of the better added touches is his decision to incorporate the journal of William Clark’s expedition with Meriwether Lewis. This not only enhances the narrative and raises the stakes, but brings films like Ross McElwee’s incredible “Sherman’s March” to mind. And, as he is an accomplished documentarian, the film is simply gorgeous…at times feeling more like a NatGeo telecast about the Mount Hood Forest. But to be sure, the plot shifts feel incredibly forced.

BUT…the reason we go along for the ride, regardless, is the brilliance of Flula Borg. While his persona takes some time to get comfortable with, by the film’s second act I was completely entranced by the man, and I looked forward to his behavior and actions as the film progressed. Giuntoli is fine as the straight man/protagonist to Flula’s irreverence…but he is best when he is playing the actor trying to shed the weight of his adolescent stardom…especially during a campfire scene which boasts punk rocker, Hutch Harris (The Thermals), playing the ultra earnest “I-Play-Cat-Stevens-at-Campfires” minstrel. Special mention to my fellow Northwestern Alum (and regular on “Grimm”), Claire Coffee, who brings not only a sense of wonder about “what’s waiting around the bend in the trail,” but acts as a gorgeous linchpin to the second act.

The music, in a film that relies so heavily on improv and scenic beauty, needs to inform the attitude, tone, and foreboding nature without being imposing, and Gabriel Freenberg, for the most part accomplishes this quite deftly. Easily shifting from Granola indie rock instrumentals to Deep Club Trance music, his score keeps the film afloat whenever the stakes cannot.

“Honey Buddies” (it really is a terrible name for a film, no matter how appropriate) will not set the film-world on fire and it loudly screams “Festival Circuit Darling”. But it was a lovely change of pace for a big screen theater in Chicago, and if it happens to play in your ‘hood, or ends up on Hulu, give it a watch…especially to witness the lead-character debut of Flula Borg, who has previously only appeared in cameo’s and teeny tiny films. This movie should trigger much more for him. At least I hope it does

Oh…and if one more critic refers to it as a “Bromantic Comedy,” I’m going to lose it.

Written on 4/1/2016

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