Movie Review: A lad and his Madagascar hissing Cockroach — “Hank and Jolene”

Of all the tones in all of lightly comic cinema, “twee” has to be the hardest to master.

Documentary filmmaker Derek Shimoda, whose film on the history of fortune cookies I remember, takes his shot at “twee” with “Hank and Jolene,” an aimless, airless slice of black and white whimsy that reaches for twee and falls well short of the mark.

Trying to get a movie out of a young plant nursery worker and potter (Edward Buchanan), the elderly Japanese couple who run it (Saki Miata, Shinichirô Okano), the invasive species Madagascar hissing roach that shows up there one day and the girl who runs the laundromat (Aathira Rajeez) proves to be an empty experience.

Grasping for meaning I was struck by the scene in which blankfaced blank slate Hank (Buchanan) sits staring at clothes spinning in the big commercial dryer, mesmerized. That’s not unlike the effect the film achieves.

Hank’s routine, chatting with the moaning oil well pump he named “Boyd” each time he passes it is cute. The two-spout smiley-face pottery pieces Hank makes for Aki (Miata) to decorate the nursery with become romantic and animated at one point, for some reason.

A bit of musing about tree rings in the logs to be turned into firewood is a non-starter. We never see customers at the nursery. There are a lot of cats hanging around, grooming themselves, presumably where Hank lives.

And then Hank finds the roach. At least we have something to watch and talk about, right? Maybe a Don Marquis reference is in order? Nah.

Te finale of this black and white film is a semi-animated, mostly color collection of Japanese illustrations used to relate folklore figures which tie into the preceding movie (perhaps), but don’t serve much in the way of purpose to this meandering gambol of a indie “comedy” either.

At least Sam (Rajeev), the laundromat manager who tries to make conversation with the cultural-and-socially stunted Hank, has seen “Seinfeld.”

“You ever wonder where the missing socks go?”

Rating: unrated, squeaky clean

Cast: Edward Buchanan, Saki Miata, Shinichirô Okano and Aathira Rajeev

Credits: Directed by Derek Shimoda, scripted by Scott Carroll. A Fish Grenade release.

Running time: 1:19

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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