If you define a film as a story recorded onto a camera and shown onto a screen, then I guess Bennett’s Song would qualify. However, if you define a good film as something that has a firm grasp on story, character, direction, cinematography, acting, or editing, then this may be lacking. I hate to pick on a small production like Bennett’s Song, which was clearly made with the best intentions, but if there is such a thing as a cinematic language than this movie is a little lost in translation.
The story centers on two middle-aged lonely hearts, Cole Bennett (Harley Wallen) and Susan Song (Aphrodite Nikolovski), who meet and fall in love. The catch is they are both single parenta to seven adopted multicultural children (Fun fact: this revelation which is the main subject of the story doesn’t happen until at least 30 minutes into the film).
Susan and Cole must now move into a bigger house, and hope their children can get along, which pretty much happens without any conflict. There is also a sub-plot involving Susan’s adopted daughter, Pearl (Calhoun Koeing) wanting to perform with her rock band at a talent show in order to raise money to go to a special music camp. This pretty much happens as well without any conflict. In fact, the film goes along at a very slow pace, bringing up potential conflicts but never having much of a payoff.
At one point Tara Reid shows up to give this film some sort of legitimacy (Let’s never forget she played Bunny in The Big Lebowski which will always give her a pass in my book). Reid plays a stuck up neighbour who often complains that the large family are too noisy or too middle class, for her high brow neighbourhood. You may think her character might set off some big conflict, but not so much. Sometimes it seems like Reid is having fun with her character, and sometimes it’s as if she’s given no direction whatsoever.
The best performance, or at least the one that comes off as the most competent, is Dennis Haskins, who people may recognize as Mr. Belding from Saved by the Bell, playing the kindly Grandpa. Haskins at least proves that he has been in front of a camera before and knows how to play a scene. His manner and physique made me think he could make a great Santa Claus in some sort of Hallmark Christmas movie someday, if he hasn’t already done one yet.
It’s not that hard to see what’s wrong with Bennett’s Song, it’s film grammar 101. Judging from what is shown within the frame, I saw a film that was very incoherent. You can tell there was little budget to work with, but if that was its only problem it might have been easier to forgive. Everything from the camera work, lighting, music, and editing felt random and unmotivated. The script is amateurish, filled with unrealistic dialogue, underdeveloped characters, and every cliché in the book turned up to 11.
There is a sliver of a good idea here, which deals with the subject of multinational children being adopted by American parents. I feel like the film had something to say on this issue, and it could’ve been shown to be far more important.
All in all, Bennett’s Song is the equivalent of a high school play, I’m sure those who know the people involved in its making will see it in order to support them. My advice for the filmmakers on their next movie, is to take some time, learn the basics, work hard on aspects of screenwriting, setting up a camera, lighting a scene, and directing actors. These aren’t things to be taken for granted, these are your tools, put them to good use, you’ll have a much richer movie in the long run.