Wednesday, November 22, 2017
Eagle vs. Shark
Written and directed by Taika Waititi from a story by Waititi and Loren Horsley who also both do casting duties, Eagle vs. Shark is the story of a shy young woman who meets an eccentric oddball at a costume party as they connect over their insecurities and loneliness as she accompanies him back to his hometown to deal with issues including his family. The film is an exploration of two people who connect as they deal with their own issues with the world as well as wonder if there’s a place for them. Starring Loren Horsley, Jermaine Clement, Craig Hall, and Joel Tobeck. Eagle vs. Shark is a delightful and heartfelt film from Taika Waititi.
The film follows a fast-food worker who has a crush on a man who works at a video game store where they connect at a costume party as he invites her to his hometown to get revenge on a bully. It’s a film that revolves around these two oddballs who don’t exactly fit in with conventional society as they bond somewhat through video games, music, and other things. At the same time, they out of step with the people around them with a few exceptions such as their respective families. Taika Waititi’s screenplay that is based on a story he wrote with Loren Horsley is filled with this balance of tragedy and humor as it relates to a line of dialogue late in the film about the way life is. It’s an idea that Lily (Loren Horsley) has been carrying since her parents had died years ago where she shares a home with her brother Damon (Joel Tobeck) who is an eccentric himself yet has managed to find a suitable living as an animator. Lily works at a fast food restaurant where Jarrod (Jermaine Clement) would often go to as he works nearby as he doesn’t seem interested in Lily until she takes an invitation to a party that was meant for someone else.
Due to her skills in playing a fighting game, Lily wins over Jarrod but it’s not enough until he apologizes for not showing up to their date because of news relating to an old high school enemy coming back to his hometown. Lily would join Jarrod with Damon driving them from the city into the country as Jarrod’s family is an oddball bunch with his older sister Nancy (Rachel House) living in the house with her husband, son, and their father Jonah (Brian Sargent) who is very withdrawn from Jarrod. Especially as it relates to Jarrod’s older brother Gordon (Taika Waititi) who had died in an accident which Jarrod claims as he would also claim his mother died as well. There’s also the presence of Gordon’s former fiancée Tracy (Gentiane Lupi) whom Jarrod is trying to impress while he also reveals to Lily that he has a daughter in Vinny (Morag Hills). All of which has Lily trying to get to know Jarrod while being someone his family likes because she is willing to accept their oddball personalities.
Waititi’s direction is definitely stylish not just in its approach to comedy and drama but also setting it into a world that is definitely unique in its own way as it is shot on location in New Zealand with the first act in the city of Wellington and the rest of the film in Porirua. While Waititi would use wide shots to capture the scope of the locations, he would maintain something intimate in the way he would capture the lives of Lily and Jarrod. The former lives with her brother as she still lives in a room that she used to share with him where Waititi would have her in the left side of the room on her bed playing guitar with her brother sitting on the other side of what used to be his bed to establish the closeness of their relationship. The usage of medium shots and close-ups are key to Waititi and how he would capture the life of a family including where he would have them around the dinner table. Notably in a scene where it’s very quiet and tense until Lily breaks that tension by telling a joke that is lame but manages to work.
Waititi would also utilize some stop-motion animation with the aid of Guy Capper and Francis Salole of Another Planet Limited in creating abstract scenes that play into Jarrod’s need to find someone as he isn’t sure if Lily is the right person for him. Waititi’s approach to humor is offbeat in the way some of the characters are presented but it doesn’t go for cheap laughs where Waititi would know where to put the humor in the right moments. Even as it would play into elements of the tragedies of the film such as the climatic showdown between Jarrod and his childhood bully Eric (Dave Fane) as it would unveil some surprising revelations. Especially as it showcases Jarrod’s need to be accepted by his family and to move away from his brother’s shadow. Overall, Waititi creates an endearing and witty comedy about two oddballs who fall in love and cope with their own encounters with tragedy.
Cinematographer Adam Clark does excellent work with the cinematography as it is largely straightforward for the scenes set in the daytime while using some lights for the scenes set at night. Editor Jonathan Woodford-Robinson does brilliant work with the editing as its usage of jump-cuts and other stylish cut to play into the humor as well as some of the light-dramatic moments without being too playful. Production designer Joe Bleakley does fantastic work with the look of the home Lily shares with her brother as well as Jarrod’s apartment in Wellington and his family home. Costume designer Amanda Neale does nice work with the costumes from the homemade animal costumes that Lily and Jarrod wear at the party to the track suits created by Jarrod’s sister and her husband.
Hair/makeup designer Leanne “Frankie” Karena does terrific work with the look of Jarrod who kind sports a mini-mullet of sorts to play into his oddball look. Sound editor Dave Whitehead does superb work with the sound in capturing the natural sounds in some of the locations as well as the way music is presented in some scenes in the film. The film’s music by the Phoenix Foundation is wonderful for its folk-like sound that play into the film’s offbeat tone in creating bits of melancholia and humor while music supervisors Chris Gough and Julie Hodges provide a fun soundtrack that features pieces from Devendra Banhart, M. Ward, and the Stone Roses.
The film’s incredible cast that is assembled by Taika Waititi and Loren Horsley features some notable small roles from Waititi as Jarrod’s late older brother Gordon, Chelsie Preston Crayford as Lily’s co-worker Jenny whom Jarrod has a crush on, Gentiane Lupi as Gordon’s fiancée Tracy whom Jarrod is trying to woo, Morag Hills as Jarrod’s daughter Vinny who befriends Lily, Dave Fane as Jarrod’s nemesis Eric, Cohen Holloway as Jarrod’s hacker friend Mason, Bernard Stewart as Jarrod’s heavy metal-loving nephew Zane, and Craig Hall as Jarrod’s brother-in-law Doug. Rachel House is fantastic as Jarrod’s older sister Nancy who doesn’t think much about him but enjoys Lily’s company. Brian Sargent is superb as Jarrod’s father Jonah as a man who is still reeling from the loss of his son as he is very distant towards Jarrod where he manages to connect with Lily that would allow him to get to know his youngest son.
Joel Tobeck is excellent as Damon as Lily’s kind older brother who likes to do impressions and say funny things as a way to cheer people up where he is also liked by Jarrod’s family during his brief time with them. Finally, there’s the duo of Jermaine Clement and Loren Horsley in sensational performances in their respective roles as Jarrod and Lily. Clement’s performance as Jarrod is strange in the way he would deliver his dialogue and how he would threaten Eric as it play into someone that is trying to be tough and cool but it only hide the anguish and loss he is dealing with over his brother’s death. Horsley’s performance as Lily is more restrained as she does provide bits of physical comedy reaction but also has a lot of energy in the way she reacts to Jarrod’s coldness during the second act where she channels her energy to get to know his family as her charm would be key to the story and letting Jarrod find some happiness.
Eagle vs. Shark is a remarkable film from Taika Waititi. Featuring a great cast, a heartfelt story, a fun soundtrack, and gorgeous visuals. It’s a film that showcases how two people can fall in love despite their own quirkiness and coping with their own respective tragedies. In the end, Eagle vs. Shark is an incredible film from Taika Waititi.
Taika Waititi Films: Two Cars, One Night – Boy (2010 film) – What We Do in the Shadows - Hunt for the Wilderpeople - Thor: Ragnarok - Jojo Rabbit - Thor: Love and Thunder - Next Goal Wins (2023 film) - (Klara and the Sun) - Auteurs #64: Taika Waititi
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