Hunt for the Wilderpeople: when his foster-mum dies and he’s due to go to juvie, a troubled ‘hoodie’ kid and his grouchy new ‘uncle’ end up going AWOL in the New Zealand Bush. The film’s setup is absolute dynamite, but as the story unfolds it loses momentum & steam, and never matches the heady heights of the opening act. The big car-tank-and-helicopter chase at the end feels particularly lavish and a bit silly, for no obvious reason. The best thing about HFTW is the trio of great performances from the main cast: “Aunt” Bella (Wiata), “Uncle” Hec (Sam Neill), and Ricky ‘the kid’, give it their all and draw a lot of laughter. Everyone else on the other hand feels like they were parachuted in to their scenes and told to just improv-up a few bits of comedy gold at gunpoint (most apparent in the slacker/selfie/flake/horse-girl scene); and unfortunately almost all of the laugh-out-loud moments are given away in the trailer. The broody synth soundtrack feels like a big misstep too, as it doesn’t match the upbeat tone of the film. Hunt for the Wilderpeople comes hurtling of out the blocks towards a top mark; unfortunately it just can’t sustain the high-quality and focus into the final hour. That being said, it’s still undeniably a funny and somewhat uplifting ‘Antipodean-Comedy’ (mostly deadpan and accent-based jokes).
Trance: when an art heist goes wrong the only auctioneer who knows where a valuable painting is can’t remember what he did with it. Purposely or not, this is a fragmented mess of a film: it’s hard to know exactly what is past, present, hypnosis, and visions – making it frustrating to follow at times. The twist-o-rama finale in particular is both super-smart and hyper-ridiculous. If it’s one thing though, Trance is visually sumptuous; some parts feel like a technical demo reel – full of impressive techniques, colouring, imagery, and most scenes have some form of reflection / symmetry. Yet, no matter how much Boyle tarts this up, it still manages to feel like a TV drama for the most part; lots of talking, small locations, tight cast etc. There’s also a really, really, strange ‘hairy bush’ Vs ‘shaved pubes’ sub-plot. Trance is part cutting-edge super-styalised directorial flare, and part humdrum, but the shattered timeline and ambiguity of what you’re watching make it very hard to tune in to. I imagine this plays better with a 2nd viewing.
Standard night out for us Scottish people…
Sunshine Cleaning: to ensure her son can get a good schooling, a struggling mum enters the lucrative, but stomach-turning, crime-scene cleanup business. The best part of this is that it’s fairly funny and upbeat considering the grim subject matter; the characters aid this most, other than the most annoying kid in history – If that was my spawn I’d have beaten him into shape by that age. Emily blunt looks great as an angsty goth, nails the accent and steals the show for me. Amy Adams was solid too – but was clearly during her ‘must have a scene in my underwear’ phase. Chloe form 24 once again plays her bread and butter TOTAL WEIRDO role – needs to diversify! The direction and story are both simple and effective, although it goes a little off-chorus in the final third, but enough groundwork was put in at the start to give this a nice indie sleeper-hit feel to it. Sunshine Cleaning cleverly walks the line between funny and serious, and successfully avoids become farcical or gloomy.