#13 – “EAGLE vs. SHARK” (2007)
Directed by Taika Waititi
At first glance the Antipodean comedy “Eagle vs. Shark” appears very much cut from the same comedic cloth as Jared Hess’ 2004 ode to geekdom “Napoleon Dynamite” with its socially inept lead characters, quirky soundtrack and offbeat comic sensibilities. On closer inspection, however, Taika Waititi’s debut feature reveals itself to be something altogether different; a charming romantic comedy fuelled by a witty script, a great cast, a gorgeous soundtrack and a great deal of heart.
Fans of cult TV series “Flight of the Conchords” will already recognize lead actor Jemaine Clement who, as Jarrod, most closely resembles the inimitable Mr. Dynamite with his underdeveloped social skills, lack of sexual expertise and penchant for videogames, kung fu and dressing up as his favourite animal (“I almost came as a shark actually, but then I realized an eagle’s slightly better”). Nonetheless it is this very man that Lily (Loren Horsley) watches from afar, his entrance into the Meaty Boy fast food restaurant where she works played out like something akin to The Second Coming amidst a bright white light and a suitable degree of slow motion.
Jarrod, however, is far more interested in Lily’s friend Jenny to whom he indirectly extends an invitation to attend a party … an invitation which she promptly rejects and throws into the trash whereupon Lily retrieves it and attends said party herself dressed, rather impressively I might add, as a shark. It’s this peculiar setup alongside a triumphant entry into the annual “Fight Man” competition under the alias “Dangerous Person” that leads Lily into the arms (and bed) of Jarrod and whilst the results are painfully wince-inducing at times and woefully unsexy they also resonate with charm, warmth and a healthy degree of humour.
Much of the films success is surely to be attributed towards Horsley whose performance as Lily is never less than utterly enchanting. Whilst there are times when Jarrod’s childish impetuousness may leave you wondering quite what she sees in him it’s her scenes with Jarrod’s family and her own brother that highlight the true heart beating within this somewhat geeky exterior. Whether she’s blissfully misquoting the lyrics to Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”, attending a party caked in bad makeup and a hideous designer tracksuit or taking part in endearingly childish games with her brother she’s never less than angelically innocent and instantly lovable and I found myself developing a great deal of affection towards her throughout the duration of the film. Witness the scene when she tells one of her favourite jokes to the assembled family (a joke that is, in all fairness, woefully unfunny) and temporarily unites the room in a moment of warm laughter or her discussion with Jarrod’s father on a hilltop that will surely leave you wanting only to reach into the screen and hug the dear girl. That Horsley is not a huge success off the back of the film is, indeed, a mystery of mysteries (roles in such televisual fodder as” Young Hercules” and “Xena” are otherwise the only high point of her career) as whilst the film is an absolute gem it’s the character of Lily that will surely resonate with you the most come the closing credits.
And speaking of credits who would have thought that a piece of stop motion animation featuring two apples and The Stone Roses’ “This Is The One” could end the movie on such an exhilarating high. Yet The Stone Roses are but one of many musical highlights with a delightful soundtrack by Wellington indie rock band The Phoenix Foundation adding a great deal of character to proceedings.
The supporting cast, too, is hugely impressive with top marks going to Joel Tobeck as Lily’s “cartoonist/impressionist” brother whose cartoons are childishly inept and impressions frankly terrible and Cohen Holloway as Jarrod’s best friend and computer geek Mason whose computer is both hilariously out of date and, in one of the films funniest scenes, chock full of pornography.
With its quirky ideals, warm heart, superb comic timing, colourful cast of characters, superb soundtrack and Horsley’s truly mesmerising performance “Eagle vs. Shark” is a wonderfully affecting film that just goes to shows that there really is someone out there for everybody … well, apparently!
“That was some pretty good sex last night, huh?”
Track #2 – “LILY’S THEME (APPLES AND TANGERINES)”
Written by Samuel Flynn Scott
(Performed by The Phoenix Foundation)