Lockdown Friday Film Club: Hunt for the Wilderpeople
- Emma Simmonds
- 24 April 2020
The first in our series of spirit-lifting film suggestions to help see you through lockdown
When the pantheon of magnificent movie characters is assembled it would be foolish not to include one Ricky Baker, the tubby teenage protagonist of adorable 2016 Kiwi rib-tickler Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Evading the authorities with mutt Tupac and curmudgeonly foster father Hec (sterling work from Sam Neill) after crudely faking his own death, Ricky is played with comic aplomb and no shortage of pathos by Julian Dennison.
A great hero needs a great adversary. Step forward surly social worker Paula (the brilliant Rachel House), who is looking to return the 13-year-old to care and who paints a forbidding picture as she lists his infractions: 'Disobedience, stealing, spitting, running away, throwing rocks, kicking stuff, burning stuff, loitering and graffiti… And that's just the stuff we know about.'
Based on Barry Crump's 1986 book Wild Port and Watercress, it's written and directed by the marvellous Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows, Thor: Ragnarok, now an Oscar winner for Jojo Rabbit). Littered with his trademark irreverent humour, there are so many scenes to savour it would be impossible to list them here. Suffice to say, Waititi's own cameo as an insensitive, snack-obsessed minister is a highlight, as is Rhys Darby as Psycho Sam, while Ricky's bespoke birthday song is quite the banger.
Far from conventional feelgood fare, it's no stranger to life's grim realities – the sudden death of Rima Te Wiata's adorable Bella, which sets events in motion, is utterly heart-breaking – while its central duo are appealingly frayed round the edges. But, if there are hardships to be suffered and sketchy reputations and cynicism to overcome, it's heading towards that all-important happy-ever-after. Because we all deserve one, right?
Throw in some exciting action and a stirring, sometimes quite beautiful soundtrack and, as the troubled twosome roam wild and free amidst an expanse of glorious bushland, it's a flight of transgressive fancy for those stuck at home, itching to do the same.
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