As the stories of real-life Hollywood Ogres continue to pile up, the perspectives of women who’ve navigated the trenches are especially welcome. Half Magic, Heather Graham’s feature debut as a writer/director, is a witty, agreeably low-key comedy about Finding Yourself that benefits from a keen sense of irony about Tinseltown. Breezy though it may be, there’s also no shortage of righteous rue being flung.
Graham plays a script developer stuck in a degrading relationship with a galactically piggish action star (a very funny Chris D’Elia). After breaking it off, she and some similarly romantically snafued friends (Angela Kinsey, Stephanie Beatriz) bond over the mysterious potential of some wish-fulfilling candles. Those expecting full-on coven shenanigans may be disappointed (The Craft this ain’t), but the only faintly supernatural approach serves the material well, boasting an organic, casual wobbliness to the conversations that juices even the most mundane scenes. Even when it goes for Bridesmaids-style raunch, it retains the atmosphere of friends hanging out.
The performers only add to the overall vibe, including brief-yet-funny contributions from Molly Shannon and Rhea Perlman, Luke Arnold and Thomas Lennon as some particularly horrible possessors of the Male Gaze, and especially Kinsey, whose stutter-step delivery has a way of both deconstructing and enhancing her eventual punchlines. Anchoring it all is Graham, who is never more appealing than when she’s wrestling with her own culpability in her misfiring romantic backstory. Half Magic’s final destination may ultimately feel a bit predictable, but the generosity displayed on both sides of the camera throughout makes it easy to look forward to whatever Graham does next. The fact that she actually pulls off an impromptu kitchen dance-along bodes well for us all.
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