Tag Archives: comedy drama

Movie Review: Boy (2010)

In the end, the choice between free screenings to Boy and The Girl Who Played with Fire was made for me.  It took me so long to post my homework (from my writing course) that by the time I was done, the only feasible option was Boy (which was playing at a closer venue).

So how was the highest grossing New Zealand film of all-time?  Surely all those Kiwis can’t be wrong, right?

Well, in my humble opinion, Boy is not as mind-blowing as some might expect, but for a low budget New Zealand comedy-drama by a second-time writer-director (Taika Waititi, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 2003 short film, Two Cars, One Night), it’s about as good as it could have been.  Boy is fresh, original, imaginative, quirky, funny, and ultimately poignant without being manipulative.  And that’s extremely rare for a film these days.

Set in 1984 rural New Zealand, affable eleven-year-old “Boy” (James Rolleston) lives on a farm with his grandmother, his little brother Rocky, a goat, and a bunch of little cousins.  When Boy’s gran leaves town to attend a funeral, Boy is left in charge of the family, but his life is turned upside down when his father (Taika Waititi), Boy’s biggest hero apart from Michael Jackson, returns from prison.

That may sound like a somewhat grim tale, but Boy is a coming-of-age film full of life and laughs.  There are some subtle stabs the problematic indigenous culture in New Zealand, but for the most part, Boy has a lighthearted tone that at times borders on farcical.  The jokes, which start off fast and furious, are predominantly verbal gaffs and slapstick gags related to the imagination/innocence/stupidity of the characters.  As such, they do get a bit stale after a while, but to Waititi’s credit, he skillfully shifts the film’s tone towards drama in the second half, and by the end you may find yourself strangely moved.

One of the main reasons Boy works so well is young James Rolleston, a first-timer who has turned out to be a remarkable revelation.  He carries the film from start to finish without a bit of self-consciousness.  He makes Boy a real and immensely likable kid who just wants to be loved and connect with his father.  Based on this performance and his looks alone, Rolleston appears destined for stardom.

Having talked the film up so much, I should remind readers to keep their expectations in check.  There are some slower moments and not every scene is captivating.  A few of the gags don’t necessarily work.  But Boy should be enjoyed for what it is — a simple and unambitious film (by Hollywood standards) focused on characters and relationships.  It’s a different type of experience to your brainless Hollywood blockbusters (many would say thankfully).  It’s also completely different to those heavy dramas that drain you emotionally or those crazy comedies that bust your gut.  It’s just 88 minutes of exceptionally well-made light entertainment.

3.5 stars out of 5

[This might be a strange comparison, but in some ways Boy reminds me of the highest grossing Taiwanese film of all time, Cape No. 7 (2006) — both small, simple comedy-dramas that struck a chord with the locals and ended up exceeding all box-office expectations.]

DVD Review: 500 Days of Summer (2009)

[I was supposed to put this into my second DVD Blitz, but the film was too good for me to not give it its own review]

For months I’ve been hearing and reading about the praises raining down on 500 Days of Summer, the romantic drama-comedy directed by first-time feature director Marc Webb and written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H Weber.  Naturally, this made me a sceptic.  How good could a seemingly light-hearted romantic comedy starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel be?

Well, I finally found out on DVD over the weekend.  And I fell in love with it.

500 Days of Summer tells the story of Tom (Gordon-Levitt), a young man working for a greeting card company who meets Summer (Deschanel), the girl of his dreams.  There’s just one problem: Summer doesn’t believe in love.  Director Marc Webb describes it as more of a coming-of-age story than a romantic comedy, though I’d like to think of it as both.

It’s not easy to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes 500 Days of Summer so endearing.  Is it the non-linear progression?  No, that actually got me a little confused and annoyed at times.  Could it be the creative visual style and the innovative storytelling techniques?  I liked it, but I don’t think so.  Maybe it was the characters, the way the conventional male-female relationship stereotypes were flipped on their head.  But surely this isn’t the first time this has been done.  Could it be the main leads?  Well, Zooey Deschanel is very cute and I think Joseph Gordon-Levitt gives the performance of his career, but no, I don’t think so.  And while it is a funny film, it’s not constantly or outrageously hilarious.  The laughs come from very random and quirky comments and moments, which are brilliantly conceived, but I’ve seen funnier films in the last couple of years.

So what is it that made the film so enjoyable and delightful?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it’s all of the above.  Or none.  Love isn’t rational anyway.

The film just has this incredibly sweet sensation to it.  It captures that feeling of falling hopelessly in love, the passion, the despair, the heartbreak, and the bitter-sweet aftermath.  I can’t think of another film that has done it this well, this real, with so much creativity, and so much heart. And with a cracker of a soundtrack too.

5 out of 5 stars!

[PS: Maybe I will have another opinion of it upon a second viewing.  I did, after all, watch this on the eve of my two-year wedding anniversary.]