Film Review: ‘Honeyglue’

A dying girl and a cross-dressing boy embark on a faux-unconventional romance in James Bird’s twee indie.

Adriana Mather, Zach Villa, Christopher Heyerdahl, Jessica Tuck, Booboo Stewart, Amanda Plummer.
Release Date:
Jun 3, 2016

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3383262/

For a film about throwing caution to the wind and bucking conventions, “Honeyglue” diligently adheres to clichés, many of them borrowed wholesale from 2002’s Nicholas Sparks adaptation “A Walk to Remember.” Writer-director James Bird’s sophomore feature (following “Eat Spirit Eat”) is a tale of fatally ill girl meets cross-dressing boy that treats progressive ideals and death as equally manipulative dramatic devices. Save for those capable of blinding themselves to its creaky contrivances, audiences will likely have little tolerance for this gravely by-the-books indie.

Morgan (Adriana Mather) is dying of an incurable brain tumor, which has left her father Dennis (Christopher Heyerdahl), mother Janet (Jessica Tuck) and brother Bailey (Booboo Stewart) — who’s of Asian descent, and thus emblematic of the clan’s multicultural mindset — in suspended misery. No matter her dire circumstances, however, Morgan is rejuvenated when, at a nightclub, she meets Jordan (Zach Villa) and immediately falls for him, this despite (or, as it soon turns out, because of) the fact that he’s wearing a woman’s wig, dress and make-up.

The next morning, Jordan (who lives in a colorful canopied bed on an apartment building rooftop) appears on her doorstep in a kilt, and promptly discovers that Morgan shares with him not only a birthday, but also a quirky gender-bending spirit — which in her case, entails dressing up like “The Pink Panther” Inspector Clouseau. Invited to stay for dinner, Jordan is quickly, and rudely, assaulted with closed-minded questions from Dennis. It’s at this early stage that “Honeyglue” devolves into didacticism, resembling Kevin Smith’s 1997 “Chasing Amy” in its desire to educate audiences about, and preach acceptance of, its character’s alternative lifestyle in the most prosaic, schoolmarmish way possible.

Leaden exposition infests Bird’s screenplay, which further underlines Jordan and Morgan’s girl-boy/boy-girl natures by having characters remark upon the protagonists’ fondness for (or disinterest in) playing with dolls as kids. The film’s ham-fisted storytelling, however, is truly epitomized by recurring narrated readings from an illustrated fairy tale written and drawn by Jordan (who dropped out of art school because he couldn’t “play by their rules”) that concerns the cross-species love affair between a dragonfly boy (i.e. Morgan) and a princess queen (Jordan).

Those twee interludes serve as unnecessary reiterations of the material’s be-who-you-want-to-be ethos, which is noble in the abstract but rendered with clunky, preachy earnestness. The film’s cutie-pie identity role-reversals are so incessant — peaking with Morgan and Jordan getting hitched in matching vintage wedding dresses — as to be mind-numbing. By the time the couple sport identical shaved heads and tattoos (the latter idea taken directly from Sparks’ predecessor), the film has become a one-note sermon, stating the same thing over and over again in only superficially altered form.

It doesn’t help that Mather’s performance, which goes from tentatively cheery to speech-slurring despondent, is stilted and unconvincing, nor that Villa’s co-headlining turn exudes an off-putting degree of smirky smugness. Like their supporting cast, they’re wooden in roles that have been written in a single dimension. All the while, Bird follows a musty indie playbook, from romantic candlelit baths set to soft crooning music, to overnight slumber parties on the beach, to jokey convenience-store robberies, to Morgan’s habit of recording everything — including an incoherent doctor-kidnapping bit that frames the narrative — with her 16mm camera.

Amanda Plummer eventually appears as Jordan’s blinkered trailer-park mom, who slanders her son for not being manly or normal enough, and she helps complete the film’s transformation into a borderline-parodic combination of dying-girl romantic comedy and liberal-minded message melodrama. Throughout, Bird’s visuals are consistently flat, and his habit of cinematographically spinning around his characters (at a dinner table, on a dance floor, in a field) is dizzying in an unpleasant, nausea-inducing way — thus creating a fitting marriage of form and content.

Film Review: 'Honeyglue'

Reviewed online, Stamford, Conn., June 3, 2016. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 107 MIN.

Production: A Zombot Pictures presentation. (International sales: Big Time PR, Los Angeles.) Produced by Anya Remizova, Adriana Mather, James Bird.

Crew: Directed, written by James Bird. Camera (color, widescreen, HD), Stefan Colson; editor, Colson; music, Anya Remizova; music supervisor, Remizova; production designer, Chloe Arbiture, Jon Bell; sound (DTS/SDDS/Dolby Digital), Eric Bucklin, Ian Beeuwkes; re-recording engineer, Mike Weinstein; animation and special effects, Kevin Weber; illustrator, Steve Curcuru; stunt coordinator, Nils Allen Stewart; line producer, Elisa Lleras; assistant director, Gill Mardsen; casting, Renee Haynes.

With: Adriana Mather, Zach Villa, Christopher Heyerdahl, Jessica Tuck, Booboo Stewart, Amanda Plummer.

More Film

  • Photo taken July 18, 2019, from

    Japan's Kyoto Animation Suffers Deadly Arson Attack

    An arson attack on the Kyoto Animation company on Thursday morning has injured several dozen people and killed at least one. Emergency services in Kyoto City received a call around 10.35 a.m. local time reporting an explosion on the first floor. The blaze quickly spread across the whole of the three story building. According to [...]

  • sith trooper

    Sith Trooper Revealed From 'Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker'

    “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” revealed a new storm trooper uniform Wednesday at San Diego Comic Con as part of a special exhibit celebrating the evolution of the storm trooper design. Dubbed the Sith trooper, the new uniform sports all-red armor plates with a matching red and black blaster. Also decorating the armor is [...]

  • Dunkirk

    Harry Styles Is the Perfect Prince Eric; Why He'd Rock 'Little Mermaid' Role

    Could Harry Styles be the perfect Prince Eric? One day after the announcement that the One Direction star is “in early negotiations to play the iconic ‘Little Mermaid’ role,” the internet exploded with speculation as to how he would portray the object of Ariel’s affections. “I can see lots of reasons why Harry is perfect,” [...]

  • The Lion King

    Film News Roundup: PETA Sponsors Rescued Lion in Jon Favreau's Name

    In today’s film news roundup, PETA honors Jon Favreau for “The Lion King,” “Tigers Are Not Afraid” gets a theatrical release, a Kirk Franklin biopic is in development and “The Sixth Sense” gets an anniversary showing in Philadelphia. HONOR The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is sponsoring a rescued lion to honor director [...]

  • Tokyo Director-in-Focus-at-Japan-Now

    Nobuhiko Obayashi set as Japanese Director in Focus at Tokyo Film Festival

    Indie director, Nobuhiko Obayashi will be feted as the director in focus at the Japan Now section of this year’s Tokyo International Film Festival. The festival will give a world premiere to his “Labyrinth of Cinema.” Supporting his art by shooting commercials, Obayashi is an indie whose dreamy works have influenced numerous other directors in [...]

  • Jimmi Simpson Joins Russell Crowe Movie

    Jimmi Simpson Joins Russell Crowe Thriller 'Unhinged' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Jimmi Simpson will play a key role in “Unhinged,” Variety has learned. He joins an impressive cast that includes Oscar-winner Russell Crowe and Caren Pistorius. Solstice Studios is producing the psychological thriller, which is currently filming in New Orleans. “Unhinged” centers on a woman named Rachel (Pistorius), who leans on her horn at the wrong [...]

  • David Crosby

    David Crosby Says New Documentary 'Remember My Name' Is Like 'Being Naked in Public’

    “It’s not easy. It’s hard being naked in public,” David Crosby, the legendary troubadour of classic rock, reflected at Tuesday night’s New York City premiere of “David Crosby: Remember My Name.” “I don’t know what to do here. There’s no guitars, no drums,” he laughed. Directed by newcomer A.J. Eaton and produced by the legendary [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content