Writer/Director of Ben Banks, Bryce Clark, was kind enough to send through a screener of the movie ahead of its home video release due sometime over the coming months. The movie stars Ben Banks (as Ben Banks) and essentially explores a few odd scenarios that end up re-igniting a sense of ambition in this stoner guy who had spent many years coasting along. Mischa plays Amy, a coffee shop employee with a sordid past.
Ben Banks has some great qualities and some not so great qualities. If you’re used to general Hollywood movies, then like me, you’ll probably find the movie a little disconnected. There are a few storylines and several characters going on that don’t really merge together. There is also a religious undertone to the film which is a bit of a head scratcher. Having said that, in some ways it works because the movie is being told through the eyes of Ben Banks so we’re supposed to experience his life the way he’s living through it.
Moving on to the highlight of the movie, which, no surprises, is Mischa’s chemistry with Ben Banks. I did see one review that called them “uncomfortable” which I guess is true, but it’s precisely that awkwardness that makes their on screen relationship all the more charming. Their scenes together are warm and endearing. And Mischa as an actress has always had that girl-next-door vibe about her, which works a treat especially in the context of this movie as you see why Ben Banks would be protective of her despite the revelations of her past. Plus, there are a few cute little details like Amy writing Ben’s name on his coffee cup accompanied by a little smiley face.
The other highlight of the movie is how beautifully it’s shot. I don’t know anything about technical film-making jargon, but there is something in the colour saturation and the sharpness of the image that is stunning. Some of the shots are truly breathtaking, especially the outdoor work. If this weren’t a movie, it could easily have been a tourist commercial for Utah.
One of the other highlights of the movie is seeing Melora Hardin pop up – who you might know from The Office. Her presence gives a little extra kick of life into the movie and it would have been great if she had a few extra scenes.
Movies work best when you have your lead actors with all the other supporting actors and their scenes working to service and enhance the leads. In this instance, I found myself struggling to understand if the movie was an indie rom-com, a stoner comedy or a small town conspiracy theory expose because I wasn’t sure who the leads were. It then becomes apparent that there is only one lead – Ben Banks – so it makes you realize that Amy is also just a supporting character. That, however, leads me to question the ‘why?’ of it all. Why Ben Banks? A song has a chorus to hook you into listening, a character needs to hook you too and I don’t know that a set of unusual circumstances is catchy enough. I think Ben the regular guy colliding with Amy the not-so-regular girl is a much more effective hook – the story of them, not just the story of him – but that could just be my Mischa bias showing. I’m not saying we don’t get the story of them in the movie, I think it just would have benefited from re-focusing the tone to Ben and Amy as equal leads so that she’s involved with the stoner friends and the small town conspiracy too.
I’m sure you guys will enjoy Amy – she’s a great character with a lot of heart, so for that alone, I hope you’re able to check out Ben Banks when it lands on DVD or VOD in the near future.
If you’ve already seen the movie, let me know what you think by hitting the comments.