Currently best known for her acting, Heather Graham has now written and directed her first motion picture, “Half Magic.” Although the film is not earth-shattering, it is certainly smart enough and funny enough, that it more than sustains its run time and may just linger around with viewers after the credits finish.
More than writing and directing the movie, Graham also stars in the film as Honey, one of a trio of friends (Angela Kinsey and Stephanie Beatriz complete the group) who decide to support one another in their romantic relationships. Honey, Candy (Beatriz), and Eva (Kinsey) may be at different places in their lives, but they’ve all had relationship problems and all want to have a more positive outlook on life and love.
As the film progresses, the audience watches the women struggle with their relationships in various ways separately, come back together for support, and then head back off to deal with members of the opposite sex. In telling the different portions of the story, Graham manages to balance more serious issues with moments that will make an audience smile if not laugh out loud.
By and large this achieved by Graham’s leaning towards the comedic aspects of the women’s difficulties, but she manages to do so in a way that never feels fake nor solely plays them for laughs. That can be a difficult tight rope to walk, but “Half Magic” doesn’t shy away from the challenge. So, Chris D’Elia plays Honey’s boss and one-time boyfriend, Peter Brock, and he is a wretchedly awful human being, one without redeeming qualities. One feels deeply for Honey every time Brock says something degrading or humiliating towards her, but Graham and D’Elia still offer the portrayal of him as semi-comedic, and it works.
It is true that D’Elia is very good here, but it also succeeds because the character to whom he is addressing his comments is played by the woman who wrote them and directs the film. That is, it is possible to enjoy D’Elia’s work more because one imagines the female character/writer/director as the one with the actual power, not his character. Additionally, it is always clear “Half Magic” is not a film in which Brock will end up on top when the credits role, which further softens his villainy.
One of the other elements Graham nails is the different places the women are in their lives. While Honey is struggling to make it in the movie business and juggle that with her love life; Eva is trying to get through a divorce where her husband (Thomas Lennon) has left her for a younger woman; and Candy, the youngest of the three, is just trying to get her boyfriend to respect her. Each tale is a believable one, even if some of the specifics are adjusted to maximize the humor.
As for the magic bit, that pops up as it relates to Candy’s use of candles to help spur the women towards their relationship goals. The movie is quite clear that the candles themselves aren’t magic, but that, too, is part of the charm of the whole thing. The candles, as the women well know, are an aid – they are a way for the women to help themselves focus on a single specific goal rather than just tackling a larger problem all at once.
“Half Magic” is, it must be noted, most definitely a “hard R” comedy. It may deal with topics in lighthearted fashion, but it is relatively explicit about sex and drugs. It is never over-the-top, but Graham still manages to get a few shocks in here and there.
If there is an issue with the film it is that perhaps by leaning into the comedic, the affair sometimes seems to lack depth. Just as the audience knows Brock will not win, they also know where problems are going to crop up before they do, what is going to fail as well as what is going to succeed, and that makes it somewhat less surprising and insightful than it otherwise could be.
Despite this, there is undoubtedly more good than bad in “Half Magic.” It is both familiar and new at the same time, with some good performances, and perhaps a few insights into how we can all be better than we are.
photo credit: Momentum Pictures