Monday, 25 December 2017

Movie Review: Pork Pie (2017)



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The plot: Struggling writer Jon (Dean O’Gorman), after a messy encounter with his ex Suzie (Antonia Prebble), is left struggling to figure out how to make things right again. By chance, he happens upon Luke (James Rolleston), who has stolen a car and hitting the road. He decides to help Jon get his ex-girlfriend’s house, picking up disgruntled fast food worker Keira (Ashleigh Cummings) along the way. As they go on their way, their antics on the road draw the attention of the local police, Jon’s family and even the national media, with them being dubbed the ‘Blondini Gang’.




O’Gorman is very endearing as the near-constant screw-up Jon, who benefits from being the only one of the main three with a genuine arc to his character so that we can enjoy all the ups and downs (well, mostly the downs) he goes through, mostly by his own doing. Rolleston acts as the clearest head of the main trio, and while he still joins in with the others in their mishaps, the delivery of his dry dialogue combined with how he handles his surprisingly tragic backstory never ceases to engage. Cummings continues what I suspect is a running trend in Kiwi cinema, that being animal activism played up for laughs, and she manages to balance that out with an immediately solid impression on-screen and taking part in a romantic entanglement without it just defining her character from then on. Seriously, after seeing so many bloody movies go down that route, it’s nice to see that dodged here. Antonia Prebble works well as Jon’s ex-fiancĂ©, wringing a lot of catharsis out of a certain meeting between her and Jon early on in the film, Matt Whelan as Jon’s friend Noah gets easily one of the funniest lines in the film and he delivers it perfectly, and Thomas Sainsbury as Bongo takes only a single scene and comes out of it one of the best things in the entire film.

Maybe it’s just because my past experience with modern road trips hasn’t panned out so well (Vacation, A Few Less Men, The Long Haul, etc.) but this feels like a serious breath of fresh air. Knowing how actual road trips turn out, with many hours of sweating and arguing and the endless piss breaks, engaging in a fictional one would usually involve people you want to be stuck in a confined space with, right? Otherwise, it kind of feels like literal Hell, being stuck with people you would cross galaxies to avoid and are apparently supposed to find charming. This is a very definite departure from that. While slapstick setups are embedded in the characters, their characterization as a whole is very grounded and natural and, dare I say it, relatable. These are the kind of people you would want to get lost on the road with, as the conversation alone would make the trip worth it.
Along with being a welcome departure from what I’ve come to expect from road trip ventures, the same goes for the sense of humour on display. With the modern pandemic of line-o-rama taking over most contemporary comedies, there’s usually a lack of reason why these particular people would actually say stuff like this. It makes sense that they’re playing to an out-of-universe audience, but in-universe? Not so much. Here, the dialogue between our main leads feels like they’re also trying to get laughs, but out of people they can see. It’s mostly situational, riffing on the bonkers events going on around them or the frequent mistakes that the others in the trio make, and while they don’t exactly let stupid decisions go unanswered, it never goes into the area of needlessly hateful. They come across like conversations that actual human beings have, without even a hint of a fourth wall to appeal to, only themselves.

That’s where the grounding ends, though, but that is in no way a bad thing. This plays out like the Oceanic answer to The Blues Brothers, employing the same sense of accidental carnage to similarly exhilarating ends. And fittingly enough, it all starts with the car itself. The rather gaudy look of the vehicle, that being a bright yellow Mini, ends up creating comedy on its own once you see Luke drive it like a race car, leading to some damn cool car chases and stunts. It may lose some points for pulling one of the oldest tricks in the comedic playbook, that being juxtaposing pieces of classical music like Ride Of The Valkyries against the ‘most unorthodox’ set pieces, but the creativity on display in the locales used still rings through. It also works on a similar level to Burn After Reading, where laughs are derived from how much chaos is going on over basically nothing. Police chases, a psychotic gunman, an animal activist movement which has a rave titled “The Silence Of The Lambs”, complete with Hannibal cosplay; all of this surrounding a guy just trying to make amends with his ex. The weird part is that, even as the drama starts to creep in and his arc reaches its conclusion, all of this calamity doesn’t cut into how effective that denouement is. It’s predictable but it still works.

All in all, this is a very fun road trip. I won’t pretend to have seen the original Goodbye Pork Pie that this is a remake of, but honestly, I don’t think I need prior experience to see the genuine good this has to offer. The acting is solid, the action scenes are a nice showcasing of practical car stunts (with a shot fired at Michael Bay to further its point, which has endeared me to this film for life), the humour is among the most natural I’ve yet covered on this blog in terms of dialogue, the set pieces give the film a good amount of variety, and the story itself builds on familiar parts to make for a pleasant ride.

It ranks higher than Star Wars: The Last Jedi, as I actually gave a shit about the story and characters here. That movie’s still good but it’s also still part of a franchise that I have very mixed feelings about; this is straight-up gold that I have very little to complain about. However, while this is incredibly fun, that’s about as much as you can expect from it: Entertaining but not demanding. The Boss Baby completely crushed my expectations going into it and gave a surprisingly solid set of morals, combined with humour that actually got bigger laughs out of me in the moment.

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