It’s opening day here at the Sunscreen Film Festival in beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida. After claiming my press badge and ducking behind the red carpet, I entered the theater to see Wild Honey, a Romantic Comedy that was as fresh and welcoming as the sky outside.
Much like that afternoon view, this film is not one tone, it is comprised of many shades that blend together to form the big picture. And it was a sight worth seeing.
Wild Honey, the opening night film for that 2018 festival, is the story of Rusty Schwimmer (The Belko Experiment, Blood Stripe) as Gabby, a woman who works as a phone sex operator who ends up falling for one of her clients, Martin, played by Timothy Omundson (Galavant (TV), Supernatural (TV)).
When she decides to fly from snowy Chicago to sunny California to pay Martin a surprise visit, it changes everything. Once these two meet face to face, reality sets in and the surprises keep coming.
In many ways this is an offbeat rom-com, yet structurally it is true to form. One of the ways Wild Honey shakes things up is by casting the natural yet unconventional Rusty Schwimmer in the leading role.
She is not anything like the emotionally overt and narrow hipped female we often see portrayed on the screen. During the Q and A Rusty herself spoke to this, saying she feels she represents most of the American women out there, this prompted the women in the audience to applaud in kind, so I take it they agree.
Rusty Schwimmer gave a bold performance made up of range and heart, giving full authenticity to this complex role. Rusty Schwimmer won a best actor award at the 2018 Sunscreen Film Festival for Wild Honey, a nod which was well deserved.
Of course, giving Gabby the occupation of a phone sex operator gives this story an irreverent and comedic twist on the genre. Other examples would be the unexpected turns this film takes, such as a scene where Martin takes Gabby to his backyard to check out his Apiary, to us laymans, that is a bee farm.
This fun scene is followed by Martin giving Gabby a jar of his home grown wild honey as a parting gift. That jar of honey comes into play later, in a bit of symbolism that reminds us that Writer/Director Francis Stokes (Dogcatchers (Short), God Inc. (Short)) delivered a well crafted script.
Even the supporting characters in this story are well developed and capture our attention. There is Todd Stashwick (12 Monkeys (TV), Gotham (TV)) as Vince, the co-dependent ex-boyfriend Gabby cannot seems to get away from.
Stephnie Weir (Fun With Dick And Jane, MADtv (TV)) as Esther, she is Gabby’s favored sister. This favoritism still affects the relationship between these two sisters to this day. Gabby tells Esther she is flying into California to see her, yet we know Martin is the real reason.
Stephanie Jane Markham (Godcatchers (Short), God Inc. (Short)) plays Greta, Esther’s personal assistant who is terrified of breaking the news to her that she’s pregnant, even though she is clearly showing at this point.
During the Q and A, Writer/Director Francis Stokes gave some fascinating insight into the character of Greta. It turns out that Stephanie is his wife, and by the time Stokes and his production team received financing for Wild Honey, she was pregnant with their son.
This would have held the movie back or even canceled the production, if he didn’t think fast. Francis Stokes re-wrote the role of Greta to be pregnant. This change serves as a perfect example of what indie film is all about, making any resource you have an advantage, whether it was expected or not.
The supporting character of Greta has a clear arch, as any well written player should. It makes me wonder what Wild Honey would be if she was not pregnant, then it makes me glad things did happen the way they did.
Wild Honey is busy generating buzz during its festival run, which started with a world premier at the 2017 Austin Film Festival. I am sure this movie will find a home, when it does I urge you to seek it out, and guys bring your date…. if she is cool, because as I alluded to earlier this is a fun Romantic Comedy, but this is not The Notebook.
Curt Wiser is the Writer, Director of the Suspense movie Cam-Girl. As a filmmaker and artist he answers the call to say a kind word about other movies and share them with the world.