FILM REVIEW – HALF MAGIC. With Heather Graham, Stephanie Beatriz, Angela Kinsey, Chris D’Elia, Molly Shannon. Written and directed by Heather Graham. Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and drug use. 94 minutes.
Actress Heather Graham makes her writing and directing debut with HALF MAGIC, available on VOD and select theaters. It is a timely comedy about three women dealing with sexism. The good news for men is that not all the men in the movie are louts, although she has fun skewering those that are, and the real point is that women can support each other in looking to be treated with the love and respect they deserve.
The comedy is not subtle and, particularly with Graham’s character of Honey, seems to be settling some scores or, at the very least, speaking from personal experience. She’s an aspiring screenwriter who is a protégé of Peter Brock (Chris D’Elia), an action star who believes all movies should appeal to his target audience of teenage boys. Thus, all women are “sluts,” and Honey’s ideas for positive movies about women are dismissed out-of-hand. Indeed, he even claims to have an app for his phone that detects worthless movie ideas.
Honey goes to a program about female empowerment (featuring a cameo by Molly Shannon) where the participants are invited to celebrate their breasts and “pussies,” in effect taking their body parts back from male objectification. It is here that she meets Eva (Angela Kinsey) and Candy (Stephanie Beatriz), with the latter claiming that the candles at the store where she works have magical powers. Her (male) boss dismisses the idea as nonsense, but the three women light candles and hope to make improvements in their lives.
The film then follows the three of them as they navigate the good and the bad of relationships. Eva is still hung up on her ex-husband (Thomas Lennon), a self-absorbed artist who used her for inspiration and support without giving either in return. Candy (Stephanie Beatriz) is so lacking in self-esteem that even as her supposed boyfriend is seeing other women, she’s doing his laundry. And Honey, finally asserting herself, ends her sexual relationship with Peter only for him to announce that he’s broken up with her first, so she can’t be dumping him.
The movie focuses on the idea that you must be willing to claim – or regain – your self-respect before you can start dealing with others on equal terms. All three women have absorbed the negative attitudes projected onto them by their male partners. Each will learn that once they see themselves in a different light, they are ready to assert themselves, entering into new relationships where they will be on an equal footing. This male critic is guessing the film will probably resonate more with women, but that doesn’t mean men can’t learn something and be entertained by it. The #MeToo movement has been eye-opening for many men as we’ve learned what kind of treatment women have come to expect in their everyday lives. Graham satirizes it in a way that shouldn’t draw blood from those men who already get it.
While the film is getting a limited theatrical break, it’s much more typical of the films that go directly to VOD and streaming. It’s a movie that will play much better with the lower expectations of VOD releases which works to its advantage. “Half Magic” leaves one with the hope that Graham has more to say.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel is Time on My Hands: My Misadventures in Time Travel. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.