2 October 2016

And It Was The Best

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Hunt For The Wilderpeople is a film about two people on a journey, which is ironic because I had to go on a journey to find this fucking movie. Despite looking more shite than a little brown lump in a particularly smelly kitty-litter box, Nine Lives is still playing in my local cinema well over a month since it was dumped onto the Earth. Are people really paying to see that? Because even though I'd heard that it was one of the best films of the year, Hunt For The Wilderpeople was only playing in the nearest art-house cinema to me, and I'm not sure why! I mean, it's not like the film is obscure or designed only for the most cine-literate of movie geeks. It's about a mismatched couple bickering on an adventure. Not only is this the set-up for most movies, it's relatable too as I was bickering with my friend as we were forced on our journey to see this film. Although, in the film the two characters bicker because of their water-and-oil personalities, me and my friend bickered because he couldn't understand why it was inappropriate to frantically scratch cheese stains off his crotch when we're on a crowded fucking train.

So the film begins with an initially quiet fat boy played by Julian Dennison being dropped off at a farm with his new foster parents as they're warned of how much of a dick he can be. His new foster mum seems undisturbed by the revelations that this chunky lump of trouble likes to set things on fire however with the two quickly forming a seemingly strong bond. Sadly, fate intervenes with her being removed from the picture. One thing leads to another, and as the authorities quickly come after the boy, he ends up living and hiding in the huge area of surrounding woodland with his cantankerous foster father played by Sam Neill. Sam Neill inappropriately bickering with a young fat boy? I haven't seen that since he went waaay too far at a dig in 1993 and start slicing at a kid's gut with a raptor claw. Funnily enough, that's not the only similarity to Jurassic Park, with the film essentially being about Sam Neill's more experienced but child-hating adult having to survive in the wild as he slowly grows attached to his younger companion. Although in this case, they're being stalked by something more terrifying than a man-eating raptor; they're being tracked by an angry large woman from social services. As I grow further into adulthood, I find dinosaurs to be less of a threat to my life, however some women can terrify the shit out of me.

Interestingly this antagonistic social-service woman may start off as a twatty-but-believable human, but as the film continues she becomes more and more exaggerated to the point of caricature. Rather than causing everything to fall into the world of farce however, this portrayal of people and place actually gives the movie a much more Roald Dahl feel. I mean, if you were to just squint at this mental bitch as she screams after the young boy whilst riding a fucking tank, you could almost mistake her for the demonic Miss Trunchbull from Matilda. What does she want to do when she catches them? Send the boy to juvenile prison? Or force him to eat a massive chocolate cake before spinning him over the fence via his tits?! This is a vibe that runs throughout, with onscreen text popping up to break the movie into its different chapters. Comparisons can be made to Wes Anderson with Moonrise Kingdom actually being one of the closest films that I can think to compare this to. Although whereas people can often accuse Anderson of being quirky for the sake of being quirky, the tone of this movie walks that perfect tightrope of being strange but not distractingly so, funny but not ridiculous, and touching without being sentimental. At the very worst, I'm sure that even the most deluded hater could argue that it's everything that Nine fucking Lives isn't.

Tone aside however, the obvious reason for the film's brilliance is the portrayal of the two main characters by Dennison and Neill. On the face of it, Dennison might steal the show in the way that his character might dream about stealing fucking sausages. Almost everything he does is hilarious, whether it be dancing about like a tit, blatantly lying about Tupac being his best friend, or obliviously accusing his co-adventurer of being a nonce. In fact the hardest thing that the kid does is make us laugh due to the lack of shit he gives about the world, whilst also unintentionally allowing us to warm to him due to the naïve and vulnerable childlike side that he tries to keep hidden. A perfect example of this being his attempt at heating a hot water bottle up on a campfire oblivious to the fact that he's fucking up and it's about to melt through. Firstly he's had the balls to run off into the woods, secondly the scene is just funny, and thirdly, he only wanted the hot water bottle due to its association with his foster mother and the emotional warmth it brings. I mean, look at him for fuck-sake.. there's enough blubber on him that there's no way he's actually worried about feeling the fucking cold.

However perhaps as eye-catching as he is, the real reason that the film works is due to Sam Neill. Of all the characters, his is the one that's portrayed the straightest with him slightly underplaying as everybody else screams or shouts or pretends to be a walking fucking bush. His grumpy curmudgeon isn't really comfortable with society and so with each larger than life character that we encounter he treats them with the same suspicious what-the-fuckery that we do as an audience. This obviously also explains why his character isn't initially impressed with the idea of having a foster son that he's more than happy to refer to as a 'bastard'. As such, the film also has a Midnight Run thing running through it which is interesting because that's also been mentioned as reference for director Taika Waititi's upcoming Thor: Ragnarok. In case you're unaware of who Waititi is then he actually cameos in this film as a priest who gives a funeral speech that's pure bat-shit mad. A speech which isn't actually in the source novel for the film, but is apparently the actual word for word recreation of a funeral speech that he saw in real life. In which case perhaps I'm wrong about the characters being exaggerated and Roald Dahl-esque. Perhaps this is just what New Zealanders are like and Waititi is the Mike Leigh-like auteur of the countries kitchen-sink fucking dramas.

And speaking of New Zealand, I might have had to adventure across the country to find this movie but apparently it's actually doing some pretty decent business which is good. I heard an interview with Sam Neill in which he pointed out that proof of the films quality is that it's actually done pretty good business in Australia which he claims is something “Australians tend to try to avoid letting happen with New Zealand films”. I'd argue however that proof of the films quality is the fact that I had to endure the cost of travel to a cinema that then arse-raped me in the wallet and I still fucking loved this film. I didn't come out feeling ripped-off or limping from a particularly rough financial buggering, but elated and over-joyed that I got to not only see one of the best orc-free New Zealand movies, but simply one of the best movies of the year. I asked the two friends that I went to see this film what they thought about it too and it seemed that all three of us were in total concurrence... Hunt For The Wilderpeople is totally fucking majestical. Thanks for reading, motherfuckers, and see you next time.