It should’ve been such a romantic moment. There was Rick (Clint Jordan), an emotionally troubled but seemingly on-the-mend stockbroker, re-proposing to his wife of ten years, Joyce (Kirsten Russell), at a stodgy cocktail party they’re hosting to celebrate his recovery. Unfortunately for Rick, however, his wife hesitates and refuses to accept the $50,000 two-and-a-half karat diamond ring he offers her. Crushed and humiliated, Rick follows their hastily retreating guests out the door…and into an evening full of an inordinate amount of synchronistic adventures.
His first stop is at an ex-girlfriend’s apartment, even though he’d broken up with her only six hour before re-proposing to Joyce. There, he finds a picture of Joyce kissing another man who used to live in that very same apartment before he died alone of unspecified causes. Rick then makes his way to an all-night diner where he insults Moses (Dudley Findlay, Jr.), who proceeds to beat the crap out of him. Then Ricks asks the burly stranger to kill him in exchange for the rejected diamond ring.
While Rick’s life is unraveling thusly, Joyce sets out looking for her missing husband, only to wind up at a party where she meets and befriends an overly sensitive streaker/performance artist named Tony (Anthony Howard). Tony looks shockingly like the dead man Joyce was kissing in the picture Rick found in his ex-girlfriend’s apartment; the same dead man whose messy remains Moses was cleaning up weeks earlier when Joyce walked in on him, hoping to reignite her affair with the dead man ’cause she didn’t know he was dead.
Strangely, as improbably interconnected as all these events eventually become, “Milk and Honey” isn’t nearly as confusing as it might sound. Unfortunately, it’s not quite as interesting as it sounds either, despite sterling performances from its ensemble cast. (Both Jordan and Russell collaborated with writer/director Joe Maggio on his superior directorial debut “Virgil Bliss.”)
Neither Rick nor Joyce is quite a sympathetic enough character to really compel the audience to care about them. Similarly, the pacing of the film is too slow, which provides time for the viewer to dwell on just how unlikely all these coincidences are in a city the size of New York, rather than be dazzled by the cleverness of it all.
Even so, “Milk and Honey” has just enough quirks and unexpected shocks along the way to keep things interesting, while all three main characters come across as believable real people, warts and all. For all its flaws, “Milk and Honey” is a solid sophomore effort from Maggio, whose collaboration with his talented lead actors is clearly capable of creating offbeat and worthwhile films. Though “Milk and Honey” itself is a very near miss, look for more from Maggio and company in the years ahead.