“Goodbye Honey” has the makings of a lean, nervy first-rate B-movie, a thriller whose suspense delivers the goods. That it doesn’t throws that one missing ingredient into the spotlight — urgency.
It’s an abduction tale in a remote setting, an escaped abductee (Juliette Alice Gobin), a lone lady trucker (Pamela Jayne Morgan) just trying to catch a few winks in a dark, empty county park and the threat of imminent recapture and a fate worse than death.
Co-writer and director Max Strand turns this into the pokiest 95 minutes in “ticking clock” thriller history. And most tragically, a decent finale and a lone bravura sequence here suggest he “gets it,” but just didn’t get around to tightening this thing into a nail-biter.
Morgan is Dawn, the 50ish trucker, 32 hours into an all-nighter hauling somebody’s worldly goods in a tractor trailer for Nate’s Haul & Go movers. She just needs a little shut-eye.
The young blonde (Gobin) who bangs on her door in a panic is Phoebe, she says. She’s just gotten away from her abductor, she says. She was locked in a guy’s basement for months, and has the long black roots to prove it. She’s manic about “getting OUT of here.”
And Dawn isn’t in any hurry, can’t figure out if she believes Phoebe and can’t find her damned keys in any event.
“Goodbye Honey” starts to go wrong the moment Phoebe stops tossing out bags and the glove compartment. The “panic” isn’t gone. But it’s something Phoebe talks about, doesn’t act out. Dawn isn’t listening when she pleads “We’ve gotta stay out of sight until I figure this out,” and doesn’t look scared of the baseball bat Phoebe retrieves from the truck cab. But she slowly backs down.
Emphasis on “slowly.”
The almost real-time evening adds some punks who bust into the truck, and long flashbacks — Phoebe, telling her “whole story” (seven years in the making) and Dawn explaining how she came to be behind the wheel of a big rig.
As every one of those “added complications” unfold, the movie staggers to a halt. Only a blur of a montage showing the terrifying tedium of Phoebe’s ordeal — locks clicking, a light coming on and scores of meals dropped in front of her — gets us back to “manic.” That’s where thrillers come to life.
Morgan has a hint of Ann Dowd (“Compliance”) about her, but it takes so long for Dawn to grasp what’s happening and how they can get out of this you could bruise yourself, slapping your head in dismay. It’s a lumbering turn.
The punks (Rafe Soule, Jake Laurence) sequence is loaded with illogical twists and cringing gullibility. How is this woman making a go of it in the rough and redneck world of trucking if she can’t outsmart these two, or at least figure out she’s being outsmarted?
Gobin makes Phoebe’s arrival — breathless and on the verge of tears — the jolt the film needs to get going. Only she can’t sustain that and the two leads let the multi-night nature of the film shoot show in their fading energy levels, scene after leaden scene.
The “Is she lying?” mystery to Phoebe’s tale is abandoned, and even the finale feels slow-walked and perfunctory.
“Goodbye Honey” would play better at an 80 minute runtime. But cutting can only take the pacing so far if your players aren’t as frazzled as you want the viewer to become on their panicked behalf.
MPA Rating: unrated, violence, profanity
Cast: Pamela Jayne Morgan, Juliette Alice Gobin, Rafe Soule, Jake Laurence and Paul C. Kelly.
Credits: Directed by Max Strand, script by Todd Rawiszer and Max Strand. A Freestyle release.
Running time: 1:35