The interesting thing about Honeymood is that on paper it sounds like the most tiresome premise ever conceived. Another run at the ‘one crazy night’ formula with a kooky, mismatched married couple on their honeymoon. However, by leaning into the contrived narrative Israeli director Talya Lavie crafts a film far more creative than After Hours by way of The Heartbreak Kid.
Part of the reason the film works so well is the characterisation of the bride and groom (Avigail Harari and Ran Danker). Lavie clearly understands that the premise would fall apart were it not for the insecurities and foibles of its principle characters. So, the script digs deep to find the richness of character that would justify such an absurd journey. In this case a fanciful drama teacher, prone to superstition and a relentless people-pleaser of a husband.
When one of the couple’s wedding gifts turns out to be a ring from the groom’s ex, Bride Eleanor is determined to not begin their marriage on such a cursed note. She resolves then to track down the ex-girlfriend and return the ring. However, this simple task takes the couple on a calamitous odyssey through the city of Jerusalem; encountering Israeli Guards, suicidal nurses and mixed emotions.
What makes this scenario so endearing though, is that madness only serves to escalate the pre-existing tension between the couple. Driving them apart both physically and emotionally. All of which would seem utterly infuriating if the two leads did not completely sell their respective personas. In Harari and Danker’s performance we can see a lifetime of dreaming and fantasy and passivity that enables the formula. Sowing the seeds of doubt into their viability as a couple right from the beginning and reaping the destruction of their relationship over the course of the night.
It’s an approach that’s complimented by the tone which manages to walk the line between lightness and realism. Much of the comedy comes from the way in which the Eleanor and her husband ping off each other and the ever-building supporting cast. From religious taxi drivers to obnoxious exes, each one reveals a deeper layer to their human flaws. Aside from a few moments of magical realism and hints at darkener subject matter Lavie treats the proceedings with a very grounded and human sense of folly. Not gritty by any stretch but existing at the fringes of realism. Where the heightened emotions of the characters bleed into the cinematography and score.
The film is by no means perfect. The antics certainly drag on which is hardly helped by the poor way in which the passage of time is communicated. Almost leading us to believe that the Bride and Groom are trapped in some sort of Kafkaesque hell in which their honeymoon lasts an eternal night. At several points the dramedy crosses a line into straight drama, at which point you’ll likely find yourself wishing they simply returned to their luxury hotel room to sleep it off. However, Lavie consistently pulls us back to rooting for the young couple.
Honeymood is a charming, inoffensive little film that’s guaranteed to leave a smile on your face. One whose constant flow of character humour and sense of light fun makes it one of the best comedies of the year.