Hunt for the Wilderpeople : A Film Review                                     

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Hunt for the Wilderpeople

Director and Writer. Taika Waititi. Cast. Sam Neill … Hec, Julian Dennison … Ricky, Rima Te Wiata … Bella, Rachel House … Paula, Tioreore Ngatai-Melbourne … Kahu, Oscar Kightley … Andy, Stan Walker … Ron, Mike Minogue … Joe, Cohen Holloway … Hugh, Rhys Darby … Psycho Sam, Troy Kingi … TK, Taika Waititi … Minister, Hamish Parkinson … Gavin, Stu Giles … Sick Man, Lloyd Scott … Tourist, Selina Woulfe … Organ Player, Mabelle Dennison … Church Lady, Sonia Spyve … Court Lawyer, Timothy Herbert … Court Lawyer, Tuss … Tupac, Finn … Zag, John Campbell … John Campbell, Mihingarangi Forbes … Mihingarangi Forbes, Nadine Chalmers Ross … Nadine Chalmers Ross, Sam Wallace ..  Sam Wallace.

Preceding this review is one for the remarkable Iranian debut film Under the Shadow set in the midst of Tehran at the beginning of the 1980 to 1988 Iraq andIran war.  A brilliant non-archetypal horror film.  See the review as it casts off at QFT on the same dates and perhaps line up the two!

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New Zealand on a quiet day

Hunt for the Wilderpeople is a type of road (forest/bush) movie but isn’t.  It’s really a human interest story on the estrangement through foster care and youth struggling in a data ‘enriched’ world and the reversal back out of it to basic needs and desires.  Pared down but ‘enriched’ environment and people lessons are in abundance here.  Ricky says ‘You just said Bush!’ with Ricky the lynchpin who is at first potentially a thickset irritating troubled youngster whose attention seeking personality brings conflict by the bucketload. Except he doesn’t, isn’t, is endearing and infuriating as his potential is locked in a place not of his making – governship wise. His mind is alert but a jumble.  He has a ‘Walkman’ – the Director presumably kept this as some sort of tokenism to it having got a mention in the original inspiration, the book, see next segment..  Ricky performs a bit of hip hop which you would find hard to replicate.

Wild Pork and Watercress

The book Hunt For The Wilderpeople, is supposed to be based on, I haven’t read it or sought it out is Taika Waititi’s adaptation of Barry Crump’s Wild Pork and Watercress. He’s currently Directing the mega Thor in New Zealand where this book and film are obviously based, with, you will recall perhaps, Tom Hiddlestone and at one point watching on, Taylor Swift. He is no shrinking violet Mr Waititi as he performs an assault on the book which is no mean feat given it is a memorable national treasure for some of the mere 4.4 million residents and diaspora of New Zealand.  Surprising that, a population less than that of Ireland, and around the same as Greater Manchester or Lancashire?

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He tears up the story and inserts huge blocks for comedic and to great effect; two characters for instance.  The Social worker whose business it is to be the one who inserts the straight and narrow into wayward kids life’s – the shock chick, bonkers Paula played for satire and laughs, (Rachel House) and her local cop friend and colleague (Oscar Kightley) whose farcical performance has you laughing (hopefully) as the story is then bound to deliver another bountiful twist. He actually has a brilliant part at an important element of the story which is redemptive for many. This is typical as description because it is the nature of this – and the book is followed though entirely off narrative with new bits (as I mentioned it became a bastardised version) in Chaptered segments 1 – 11 with a wind up epiphany which is also a saviour.  Each chapter is about five minutes of usually fairly gripping action, eye poppingly radiant of the natural beauty of New Zealand and even an animated bird appears. Also there is a sequence – some reviewer mentioned a pan – which is not landscape centered though the vastness and extent of the Wilderness (title clue there!) is delivered by several helicopters, strangely silent in some films, intensely loud in others! We have a share of each with the former more prevalent. The pan is of the characters, providing as a film needs, variations on attack to the viewers expectations.

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The Performers and presentation.

Chapter driven we have, the normality of introduction which here I describe briefly also wishing not to be any kind of plot spoiler – so character introduction only. Waititi in this low budget movie was able to find the young teen actor Julian Dennison as his lead working on a commercial. In came New Zealand soap star Rima Te Wiata as Aunt Bella. The cast includes in a small but significant part, Flight Of The Concords Rhys Darby as the isolated bushman “Psycho Sam,” with finally in a stroke of good fortune Waititi sent a script to the approving New Zealand-raised Sam Neill to play Hec.

Our child-cookie monster social worker brings along to Bella and Hector to their outback forest/bush edge homestead.  All self sufficient theory – they are nonchalant killers of boar, deer, eels, you na,e it and this s kept true to the book with chapters in which the animals get a part to play – at least in short sharp animatronics style.  No animals were harmed etc.

The farcical and frontier mishaps, several of which in normal life would had been, end of show, build in mostly a hyper dense abundance of that other caharacter trees – the tracking shots through trees must have done the head in of several crew as canyons, well drops of ten feet or so stop them in their tracks.  Location manager gets applause for finding a locality which presumably catered for several variations which appear convincingly different on screen.  Rivers and even a high mountain lake with waterfall.  It is obvious to seasoned travels – I exclude myself – these treasures locations have long since been discovered and feature on many tourist and trip advisor bulletin of seen previously in a Cinema near you In Lord of the Rings.  Cue joke and yes there is one for you to key your ears pealed for!

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Characterising foster care children.

This is an advertisement for foster care.  Ricky is a hard sell but he shines with character individual survivors instinct and is also one in need of some decent parenting.  Now Bella and Hec (Hector) simultaneously are to e applauded and castigated for giving from early on a gun.  His own rifle.  He gets a dog also.  A very helpful nurture beast who he is responsible for! Bella and Hec have one of their own and the meld is carried throughout with non-speaking parts, though Taika Waititi’s take is nothing is spared for a laugh.

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Lord of Lordy

To be recognised maybe as a boy with a right to create his own life and set his own path so the normal rules go. Well all well and good but parenting involves supporting the boy and providing for his needs. Independence can come later but he is determined to make a break for it early. Looking at the cast list reveals the Director Taika Waititi plays the part of a Minister so we get the director spelling out the moral angle for us. Mabelle Dennison, Ricky’s real life Mum, plays a Church lady so we get the perspective of what a real Mum wants of her son. The Ministerial ‘Address’ is Taika Waititi’s take on religion – his confusion is real. The train of thought is not exactly mind blowing for you to follow. It is a beautiful as a stretched canvas of relationships primarily, cockamamie farcical escape from the boring sometimes hurtful everyday, Ricky is wise enough to realise this semi-wild life is next to his real desires if he could be allowed to pursue its discovery for himself. It is also imposing and beatific almost reverential and God like as paradise. Lost Lords, is that what their after?

Conclusion ####4

This 12a rated film has been given a rapturous acclaimed response by critics, most notably Mark Kermode of more local expansive recall.  It is an obvious bonding catalyst for fahter son and is immersive in emotionally solidity and depth through the superb delivery of the ‘natural’ actor Ricky who bides his time with thoughtful gaze at times, gives us his moves and does prat ful with no self concious holding back.  Alongside Bella whose warmth is instant, Paula whose splendour is full on Rosie Barr comedic, to her partner under the hood with Sam Neill pivotal as the hard soft man of the country who has his own story and the expression of sympathy, empathy, wisdom, sorrow, and most of al human grace are a long way from the blockbuster heroics good as they’ve been and also delivered. It may not fit the gold dust of Lord of the Rings as epic but it’s cast, crew and the overly confident but extremely talented and likeable Taika Waititi (but did he actually say ‘Take it away Selina’! I’ll have to see it again!) falls into few traps. Temerity is not a trait he holds and the Chapter Ten is to some extent over played routine as the form sometimes lapse into but thoroughly entertaining so badges all round if not Oscars.  Though maybe Sam should get one for the very, very real depiction of an empathetic character with limited choices (the character has little of life’s reward’s) to show.  They come across as a bounty.

 

John Graham

29 September 2016

Belfast

On at QFT Belfast from Friday 29 October until 6 October 2016.

 

Also at selected Cinemas and on various formats and outlets.

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