With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Monday, June 11, 2007

ACF 030: Eagle vs Shark

Jarrod (Jemaine Clement) and Lily (Loren Horsley)

"Some people don't even have a sleeping bag" - Lily

As you can tell from the pictures above, Eagle vs Shark is not a nature documentary about the relative strengths of the solitary predators who rule the skies and the seas. It's a terrific 2006 romantic comedy from New Zealand that'll soon be playing in the U.S.

But it's a rom-com unlike any I've ever seen, the two main characters being total odd balls and misfits. They're types that are typically regarded as total losers.

Lily (the fantastic Loren Horsley) is a cashier at a fast food burger joint. Each workday she waits for Jarrod (Jemaine Clement) to come for lunch at his regular time. He's a salesman at a video game store, and she'll do whatever is necessary to keep her register free so she can take his order. She sees something in him and pursues him shamelessly.

This leads her to show up uninvited to his "come as your favorite animal" party, where she proceeds to defeat all the other challengers in a video game that looks like an old 2-D Mortal Kombat, but with player faces superimposed on the normal characters. When she faces Jarrod, the reigning champion, in the final however, all she can do is look at him adoringly. Meanwhile, he pulverizes her character, totally oblivious to the fact that she's not doing anything in response. Talk about clueless!

And yet, primal urges exist even in such as Jarrod, and the two have sex. They then go off to his hometown where he expects to realize a ten year old dream of having revenge on a bully from high school. (One of his delusions is his belief that mastery of video game combat readily translates into real world fighting.) Here we'll meet his largely dysfunctional family, and gain some insight into his behavior, which includes some reprehensible treatment of Lily.

Despite all that Jarrod dumps on her, she never becomes bitter or nasty in response. Late in the movie in a scene that struck me as a variation of the ending of The Graduate, and with one word from Jarrad, it seems that she just might have been right about him all along.

The film is written and directed by Taika Waititi. His short film Two Cars, One Night garnered an Oscar nom for Best Live Action Short. He's the first person to be invited to develop two projects at the Sundance Director's and Screenwriter's Lab. Eagle vs Shark came out of the second project and earned Waititi the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival award for best screenplay.

Jemaine Clement appeared in a series of Outback Steakhouse ads that first appeared during Super Bowl XL. He's half of the comedy duo Flight of the Conchords ("New Zealand's 4th most popular folk parody duo") that appeared on HBO's "One Night Stand". The Conchords' own half-hour show is set to premiere on HBO on June 17th. Jemaine's deadpan delivery is spot-on perfect for the out of touch character he portrays here.

As for Loren Horsley, I can't adequately praise her without shamelessly gushing. She'd developed the Lily character, a case study of awkward and embarrassing experiences, on her own, then work-shopped it with Waititi. Fans of Xena Warrior Princess and Young Hercules may recognize her from guest roles in those shows. Based on her performance in this film, I think she ought to be declared a "living treasure" in New Zealand.

Eagle vs Shark is a touching, heart-rendering, and skewed comedy. It will leave you convinced of the power of pure love. An Icon Miramax Films release here in the states, it's slated to open in select cities June 15th, 2007. Check your local papers or the official film site link below.

Links:
Eagle vs Shark - official site; imdb
Taika Cohen, director - imdb
Loren Hosley, actress (Lily) - imdb
Jemaine Clement , actor (Jarrod) - imdb

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