Director – Taika Cohen
Writer – Taika Cohen
Director of Photography – Adam Clark
Editor – Jonathan Woodford-Robinson
Music – Chris Gough
Producers – Cliff Curtis & Ainsley Gardiner
Miramax Films. 88 minutes. Rated R for language, some sexuality, and brief animated violence.
STARRING: Jemaine Clement (Jarrod), Loren Horsley (Lily), Joel Tobeck (Damien), Taika Cohen (Gordon), Aaron Cortesi (Duncan) and Cohen Holloway (Mason).
Eagle vs Shark, a witty and endearing gem of a film from New Zealand, takes viewers on an epic journey as the main character searches to find love and acceptance. The epic nature of this film is found more in what it doesn’t show than anything on screen. In fact, despite using some beautiful natural scenery, there is very little to the plot or dialog.
But what it lacks in filler the film makes up for in spirit. Comparisons to Napoleon Dynamite are obvious, as are those to Jemaine Clement’s deadpan HBO comedy series with fellow Kiwi Bret McKenzie, The Flight of the Conchords. But the not-so-obvious comparison might be made to Mike Nichols’ The Graduate or many of Godard’s New Wave contributions to cinema.
There is an element to Eagle vs Shark that evokes the spirit of some of these pioneering films. There is a strange detachment in the characters from the world that surrounds them, and in this space a sort of richness fills in, leaving the viewer to contemplate much more than is merely onscreen. In this case, Clement’s slacker-hero Jarrod longs for acceptance and validation from his father so much he is willing to make a complete idiot out of himself to accomplish his goal. Lily (Loren Horsley), an former fast-food chain employee is along for the ride as Jarrod trains for his quest, reunites with his family and attempts to free himself from the ghost of his dead brother.
Eagle vs Shark creates characters that many Gen-Y’ers can likely relate to even if they cannot see themselves as. The world has become so big and competitive it’s easy for most people to just get lost. Jarrod and Lily vie at one point for video game dominance – what else can two retail employees hope for?
There are plenty of humorous moments, although none side-splitting, the humor, much like the rest of the film is dry and tempered. The film boasts an impressive soundtrack with songs from The Phoenix Foundation and indie-rock star Devandra Banhart.
Many just won’t understand the enjoyment of this film, but anyone who nodded their heads at the end of Milos Foreman’s Amadeus when the defamed composer Salieri absolves the priest and his fellow patients of mediocrity should have a good starting point.