eagle vs. shark

If Noah Baumbach and Michel Gondry made a child that came out a New Zealander with a sense of Wes-Anderson-esque irony, this baby’s name would be Eagle Vs. Shark.

Taika Waititi’s feature debut is not an Animal Planet special. Instead, it’s about a girl who falls for a guy only to find out he’s a pathologically lying, awkwardly depressed introvert. And it’s a comedy.

Though this film was billed by my Starz On-Demand programming as a nerd-fest, I begged to differ as I watched… See, this is much different from other awkward-nerd movies–like Napoleon Dynamite or Welcome to the Dollhouse–because it isn’t completely swathed in irony which usually overlays every aspect of a film of this type.

Instead, as with the Baumbach reference above, we are confronted with the character’s emotion and introduced to a great subtlety about this film. The way that characters are presented, the way that they speak and act, all plays into what this film is. It isn’t simply about the guy’s quirkiness and “oh, look at me, I’m distraught for some asinine reasons.” Instead, it’s really a kind of character study.

And the little art pieces that act as transitions or scene interpretations offer nice interludes about apples. That’s where the Michel Gondry part of this baby comes in: the art work is done in his same style of quirk and stop-motion as seen in The Science of Sleep. And I’m willing to assume that both of these men owe their styles in part to Terry Gilliam’s work.

The most surprising part of this film is the performance turned in by the bemuttonchopped half of Flight of the Conchords, Jemaine Clement. In that show, he’s mostly just straight funny and partly emotionless. That’s part of the show I think: to not show a lot of emotion because it’s funny when people react the wrong way.

But here he’s able to show off the whole kit-n-kaboodle of his acting skills. In the climactic fight scene, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cringe. I didn’t know whether to be mad at him, laugh at him, or empathize with him most way through the movie. Maybe this is actually a weakness, but I really think that it advanced his performance past his typical schtick.

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