Sunday, November 20, 2016

Diva's Movie Review: "Hunt for the WilderPeople" Is A Clever and Superb Buddy Movie

With many of the social media timelines filled with friends who have polarizing views about the results of the USA election, perhaps there is need for some time out. A feel-good kind of time out.

Watching "Hunt for the WilderPeople", a New Zealand film written and directed by Taika Waititi, is a heartwarming panacea for all the angsty, angry discussions taking place on the internet right now. It provides assurance that a genuine friendship can be formed even when two human beings are very different from each other. Logical Red Dot Diva knows that this does not happen easily in real life, but movie escapism can sometimes be good for mental health. ;)

"Hunt for the WilderPeople" is essentially a hilarious buddy dramedy with a quirky take on the fugitives on the run trope. The movie focuses on the adventures of two unlikely characters - chubby, orphaned, city street kid Ricky Baker (Julian Dennison) who thinks he's a hip hop thug and his grumpy over-60 ex-prisoner/ farmer/ super-bushman foster uncle Hec Faulkner (a very silver foxy Sam Neill).

With several police records under his belt, outsider Ricky is brought to a farming couple by social worker, Paula Hall (Rachel House). However, due to an unfortunate incident, and unable to care for a pre-teen himself, Hec decides to have Ricky re-homed. Ricky, now loving the new life that he has, is unwilling to return to the city, and runs away by heading into the bush. Uncle Hec comes looking for him, but with the authorities mistakenly judging his actions as crazy and criminal, the two spent several months on the run in the wild New Zealand countryside, dodging the police and a very tenacious Paula.

The undeniable chemistry between the two main actors, Julian Dennison and Sam Neill, is an utter joy to watch. Their scenes with each other seem effortless and yet, endearingly honest.

Red Dot Diva thought Sam Neill is magnificent, loping in the wilderness like it was second nature to him. He is also a pro at keeping a straight face whenever grizzly, reticent Uncle Hec attempts to keep an even keel in the face of challenges, which includes Ricky's naiveté, wilful foibles and awful haikus. That must not have been easy when Julian Dennison puts such exuberant silliness to his brilliant performance throughout the movie.

As the movie's villain, Rachel House was able to skillfully imbue likeability to the no nonsense social worker with a "No Child Left Behind" manifesto. A minor character by comedian Rhys Dharby, a loopy conspiracist called Psycho Sam, also made an impression. His scenes together with Julian Dennison and Sam Neill, is one of the goofiest Red Dot Diva has seen recently.

At several junctures, director Taika Waititi and cinematographer Lachlan Milne spoils the viewers with expressive and wide camera sweeps of the "majestical" Kiwi landscape, which provides an idea of what the duo had to endure while they were on the lam. Red Dot Diva has no complaints about having an eyeful of that gorgeous backdrop to this charming tale that unfolds with imaginative chapter headings, like the book "Wild Pork and Watercress" by Barry Crump, which it is based on.

For comic book geeks who snub at the idea of watching dramedies, you might be curious to check the movie out anyway, as it will give you an idea on Taika Waititi's wit and style. He is after all, the director for the next Thor movie, "Ragnarok". Waititi has also scripted Disney's latest animated film based on Pacific Islander culture, "Moana".

Despite it's slightly straggly last segment, Red Dot Diva says "Hunt for the WilderPeople" is a must-watch. It is insightful, engaging and clever; a perfect movie brimming with optimism, especially for those who love rooting for the loners, oddballs and outsiders.


"Hunt for the WilderPeople" will be screening at the Projector.

Head to their website to get tickets, and support the local indie theatre with a nostalgic vibe!

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