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Eagle vs Shark

New Zealand 2007
Directed by
Taika Waititi
93 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Andrew Lee
4 stars

Eagle vs Shark

Synopsis: Lily (Loren Horsley) is a shy and quiet girl who serves burgers and lives for the one moment each day  - when Jarrod (Jemaine Clement) comes to order his lunch. When she gatecrashes his “Dress As Your Favourite Animal” birthday party, the two go head to head in a video game duel to the death. She almost beats him (but deliberately loses) they connect and a strange relationship begins.

This wry and highly endearing comedy is as black as pitch and more acidic than an alien’s spittle, but how you take it will depend heavily on how you answer the following questions: Do you have a soft spot for socially-awkward people trying to break out of their shells?;  Do you harbour revenge fantasies against bullies who made your life a living hell at school?, and; Are you able to wait patiently for someone to become the person you know they are even as they’re busily finding out everything that they’re not? If you’ve answered “yes” to all these, you’ll find a lot of depth and humanity in this film. If “no”, you’ll probably still wet yourself laughing at this unblinkingly sharp observation of life lived inside the niche fantasy of pop culture and virtual reality as director Taika Waititi weaves a beautiful story that both eviscerates the pretensions of the socially inept and loves them at the same time.

Lily is a girl in love, not that she even knows the guy she fantasizes about. But once she and he become “they” and their romance begins, the questions above become important because in truth, Jarrod is an insufferable wanker. The comparisons to Napoleon Dynamite are inevitable, but where Napoleon was weird but decent, Jarrod is just a tool. Lily loves him dearly, but as she travels to meet his family and watch him train to beat up his bullying nemesis from yesteryear you’re likely to wonder if she wasn’t in a car accident at an early age. Surely only someone with severe brain damage would stick around a guy like this and a family like his. But stay she does and we learn a lot about how people become the ways they are. Dysfunctional families, petty grudges and awkward desires all interact to push cringe humour into new and surprising places. Somehow through it all Lily manages to accept the weirdness surrounding her and still be nice to everyone. But whether this is a result of a natural good nature or just a severe lack of self-esteem is never very clear, an ambiguity which just increases the uncomfortable nature of the humour.

Love is a beautiful thing. It’s also an awkward, horrifying, humiliating, bewildering and very, very sweet thing. And so is this film.




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