Heather Graham's 'Half Magic': Not quite bewitching

Heather Graham’s new comedy Half Magic takes its title from a candle ritual that promises wish fulfillment to a trio of L.A. women looking for happiness.

Graham plays one of them, Honey, who works in script development for a studio but wants to write and direct her own movies. Since Graham is a veteran of the Hollywood scene, and since this is her first outing as writer and director, we can assume she knows what she’s talking about.

Including the sort of industry men who “inspired” the #MeToo movement.

Honey’s boss (Chris D’Elia)  is a sexist jerk who assigns her to help with his movie about a man who accumulates power and success by killing hookers and male rivals. He’s a cartoon, no doubt exaggerated by Graham for comic effect, but maybe only a little — actual events have overtaken Half Magic, lending it the air of an accidental documentary (certainly the way he links sex to career advancement seems realistic).

For the most part, though, Graham is a humane and generous writer, particularly to the women who play Honey’s friends. The Office‘s Angela Kinsey plays a divorcee still hurt after she is dumped by her husband (Thomas Lennon), not sure what to do about the attentions of a handsome new suitor. Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s Stephanie Beatriz is Candy, who can’t muster the courage to dump a boyfriend who wants to date other women, even as he insists that she do his laundry. Honey herself ditches her abusive boss for a too-perfect Aussie/artist boyfriend. (Rhea Perlman and Molly Shannon also have cameos).

Graham has crafted some decent monologues for her characters – Kinsey does an especially good drink and dial, weeping into a phone as the pile of Cheetos and wine bottles around her grows progressively larger.

But, even at a hair over an hour and a half, the movie would benefit from a good trim, one that might give the movie’s parallel romantic stories more shape and snap.

Graham’s movie is sexually candid, and comes by its R rating honestly, but it’s also wholesome and modest in its own way. Honey’s main wishes are for a chance to direct, and for a satisfying relationship with “a guy who is nice to me.”

For the latter, you probably need a magic candle.

On the other hand, the dream of directing can be achieved with determination and hard work, and Graham as done it. Good for her.

MOVIES

Half Magic

    • Directed by Heather Graham. With Heather Graham, Chris D'Elia, Angela Kinsey, Stephanie Beatriz, and Thomas Lennon. Distributed by Momentum Pictures.

    • Running time: 1 hour, 40 mins.

  • Parent's guide: R (sex) Running time: 100 minutes
  • Playing at: AMC Montgomeryville