Sunday, May 30, 2010

Movies: Boy

New Zealanders were mad about Taika Waititi's new film*, probably because they have pride for their own. For them, it seemed to be a sweetly honest depiction of life in the East Cape; to me, it was more of a charming appropriation of Wes Anderson's signature, featuring imaginative Maori children living in a poor, dysfunctional family rather than imaginative Caucasian (grown) children living in wealthy, dysfunctional families.

Boy is our hero (my first bone to pick is the blatant everymanism of his moniker, which I find flat and aesthetically displeasing, despite the irony that the character is more a man than his father, the film's real boy (in the term's most negative sense)). He introduces us to his small, warm world: his quiet, creative little brother, his cousins, his friends, his crush, his bully, his mother's grave, and his grandmother, who leaves him in charge of the household to go to a neighboring town for a few days. As soon as she's gone, Boy's father (played by the director), a mythical creature, blows in with the wind, bringing two no-good friends, a crappy muscle car, and a hunger for a plastic bag of cash he buried somewhere in the yard before going to jail years ago. Boy is transfixed, blind to his father's lazy desperation, until a series of sweetly sad events bring about his disillusionment.

James Rolleston, Te Aho Aho Eketone-Whitu, and the other kids cast in the film are brilliant, shifting from exuberant to wary to deflated with natural ease, and they make the film worth whatever it's worth. Waititi, though, like the character he plays in the film, will need to grow up a bit, and do his own creative work, if he's going to make something of himself.

*See, for some reason, "Taika Cohen" on IMDB, even though Taika uses the surname Waititi in Boy's credits.

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