Eagle vs Shark
2007, R, 88 min. Directed by Taika Waititi. Starring Jemaine Clement, Loren Horsley, Brian Sergent, Craig Hall, Rachel House, Cohen Holloway, Joel Tobeck, Morag Hills.
REVIEWED By Marrit Ingman, Fri., July 20, 2007
This Miramax import, developed at the Sundance Institute, is Napoleon Dynamite in its 20s, a dork-chic romance about two Kiwi oddballs, one of whom has nunchaku, goofy T-shirts, Coke-bottle glasses, and a contemptuous sneer. But it’s gentler and more lyrical, with angular cinematography interwoven with surreal stop-motion sequences about the lives of discarded apple cores who find love together. Lily (Horsley) is a fast-food cashier smitten with Jarrod (Clement), a grandiose gaming geek bent on revenge against a bully from high school – so smitten that she meekly joins him for a week back home with his family. Jarrod trains in the back yard, oblivious to Lily, and the next bus doesn’t leave until Sunday. A shortage of beds requires them to camp in the yard, which affords all sorts of cinematographic possibilities, and Lily gradually awakens to her self-worth while Jarrod says things like, "Sometimes I wish I did have knives that came out of my fists." Like Napoleon Dynamite, it’s a little wisp of a movie, a lightweight feature loaded with montage and hung on one performance – in this case, that of Horsley as the wallflower finally starting to bloom. Writer-director Waititi gracefully manages to balance the film’s farcical elements with the dramatic arc of his protagonist, who isn’t the goofy guy in glasses after all but, gratifyingly, the geek girl. (See also Steve Collins’ Gretchen.) Horsley’s rich, multidimensional performance gives the movie its emotional heft; she’s a noticeably physical actor even when Lily is doing little more than slouching around in Jarrod’s shadow. Clement’s is the wackier role, but Horsley keeps the viewer grounded in sympathy. There are plenty of jokes – Jarrod’s sister and her husband sell horrifying custom tracksuits that turn up on all the characters, Jarrod makes candle sculptures ("I guess I’ve got to keep creating, or I’ll just die," he says, in the most monotonous of monotones) – but underneath the quirk there’s a real heart. However, discuss among yourselves whether Lily lets Jarrod off too easily. The film’s resolution is more implied than complete.