Saturday, June 19, 2010

Boy

Waititi [Taika Waititi, director of the movie, Boy] has been described as “worryingly” multi-talented. “Ha! I’m going to burn out? I think my friends are worried that I’m going to have a meltdown.” He has worried about this himself. “I used to be freaked out about being interested in so many things. I always thought, when I was in my youth, that I’d have to choose one thing and just stick with it and try and be good at that,” he says. “But there are so many creative ideas that come into your head that don’t necessarily suit a painting. They could be a story or a film. They could just be a cake. If you have lots of different mediums at your disposal, ways of expressing yourself – the more the merrier, I think.”

The quote above comes from an article in the NZ Listener, written by Diana Wichtel. The article is entitled 'Our Boy in Hollywood.'

Which reminds me that I haven't mentioned the movie, Boy, in this blog as yet. My wife and I went to see this a few weeks back, and I was pleasantly surprised. Not sure what I was expecting, but I had a note in the back of my mind that some reviewer hadn't been too impressed with it. Foolish reviewer. This is a marvellous movie that manages to be both funny and serious at the same time - often within the same shot.

Futhermore it's wonderfully cast: James Rolleston (he of the completely Pakeha name) plays the Maori boy of the title, a bit of a runt at that awful age (he's around eleven) where girls have suddenly become interesting. Unfortunately he has not a clue as to what to say to the one he's smitten with, and comes out with some adult rubbish that naturally puts her right off. But if Boy is clueless in this area, he's smart in other ways: he runs the household while his grandmother is away at a funeral - apart from his six-year-old brother, there's a girl cousin and a couple of little kids who don't seem to belong to anyone in particular. And when his father turns up after a jail term, Boy, initially under the delusion that his father is as special as he claims, soon discovers that he's no more than a boy himself - a man who's never really grown up in any way apart from physically. Boy tackles this problem with gumption and mana. And manages to get his father to begin to face some of what's wrong with him.

That makes it sound like a serious movie; underneath, it is. On the surface, it's full of delights, has subtle humour (and outrageous humour), and not a few quirky surprises in the storytelling. Equally it has spiritual depth (different to that of The Whale Rider but equally valid, and a moral viewpoint.

Apart from Rolleston, the other joy in this movie is Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, who plays Boy's younger brother. He gives a performance as honest and alive as any you'll see on the screen this year. No doubt, like many child actors, in part he was just living the role. Nevertheless, not every child actor manages to convey their inner self so readily. Waititi plays the father himself, and is exuberant, foolish, extravagant, outrageous, endearing, violent and pathetic by turns. As annoying as the character is, Waititi still allows us to empathise with some of his difficulties.

The movie is shot through with a wonderful New Zealand feel - it could be nowhere else in the world.

In relation to that, I watched a video of Bridge to Terabithia recently. Who in their right mind thought that a New Zealand school could possibly look like an American one? Yet that's just one of the many peculiarities of this odd movie. The houses the characters live in are American in style, but the countryside around is decidedly New Zealand. The cars drive on the American side of the road, but it's a New Zealand road. The school bus is a cousin to the school bus in Forrest Gump, but it's full of New Zealand children, as is the classroom. A strange movie.
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