EAGLE VS. SHARK
Director: Taika Waititi
Screenwriter: Taika Waititi
Executive Producer: Emanuel Michael
Cast: Loren Horsley, Jemaine Clement, Craig Hall, Rachel House
New Zealand, 2006, 87 min.
*Which is the more dangerous predator: an eagle or a shark? That's a trick question. Don't try to answer it. You'll have your own opinion by the end of Taika Waititi's deliciously tangy, deadpan feature debut about two colorful misfits thrown into each other's orbit.
Lily is one of those weird, sweet-natured girls with stringy hair who is quite lovely and charismatic under a surface of shy awkwardness. But most people don't have enough vision to notice, and the truth is that Lily isn't looking to change. She cashiers at a fast-food joint and pines for Jarrod, the self-aggrandizing, clueless geek from the computer store across the way. Fiercely optimistic, Lily crashes Jarrod's animal/video-game extravaganza, impressing him enough with her shark suit and gaming prowess to score a hookup with Eagle Lord (Jarrod) himself. Soon Lily and her brother are driving Jarrod back to his hometown to confront his childhood nemesis. But here Jarrod's self-absorption blossoms so mightily that it may drive even the most adoring of girlfriends away. As Jarrod prepares to exact his revenge on the past, Lily's quiet power gathers force as well.
With so much subtlety and precision in Loren Horsley and Jemaine Clement's straight-faced, oddball performances, Lily and Jarrod's attempts to reach each other are hilarious and excruciatingly real. Meanwhile, Phoenix Foundation's charming, moody score perfectly reflects lopsided hearts as they stumble through uncomfortably transformative terrain.
*Summary by Caroline Libresco, SUNDANCE Film Programmer
Eagle vs. Shark reminded me so strongly of Napoleon Dynamite, I could not help comparing the two and thinking less of this film for it. I like Napoleon. Unique sense of humor, gets better with each viewing, but I don’t consider it to be the second coming of comedy like many people my age do. The big difference between these two films is that Napoleon focuses on the title character’s goofy family and friends while Eagle vs. Shark focuses on an unrealistic love story. I never felt anything for the main character, Jarrod, played by Jermaine Clement. His performance felt very affected, the personality tics forced. It is hard for me to believe that a character this selfish, uninteresting, and anti-social could ever start and maintain a relationship. The main female character, Lilly, played by Loren Horsley, was sweet, awkward, and doesn’t deserve to be in a relationship with such a jerk. I think my main problem with the film is that it tried so hard to be hip; it shot itself in the foot. Nothing turns off a viewer faster than the sense of over-strenuous hipness. By the time Jarrod is fighting a guy in a wheelchair over some imagined life-long animosity between the two, I was tuned out.
There were parts of this film I enjoyed, despite my earlier indictment. This is a New Zealand film, so the landscapes are tremendous, especially when the characters visit family members along the coast. There are scenes of Jarrod and Lilly in sleeping bags on this long field of grass that just seems to roll on to the horizon. The apple core animation sequences peppered throughout the film are wonderfully done and they tie in remarkably well with the plot. I thought the relationship between Jarrod and his father was poignant. The pressure Jarrod is under to live up to his brother’s legacy in his father’s eyes is very well-played and touching. Ending the film with Jarrod’s efforts to win Lilly back is a nice way to garner some sympathy, but for me, it was too little too late.The Q & A afterwards was hosted by the director, seemingly a very decent and humble guy. I liked his points about the costume party, dressing his characters up as animals that both are solitary, dangerous creatures that never interact in nature. I don’t have much more to say about this film, I didn’t find it funny or the love story believable. A few plot touches were nice, but were ruined by what I felt was sub-par acting and contrived storytelling. People were talking about this movie around Sundance and I was just one who didn’t agree with the buzz.