Last week I blogged about watching What We Do in the Shadows, the latest endeavour from Taika Waititi, whose work in my opinion cannot be missed. This week I went back in time to watch 2010’s Boy.
“Boy” is 11 years old in 1984. He loves Michael Jackson and girls, employing the former’s dance moves to lure and impress the latter. He lives on a small farm with his grandmother, his younger brother Rocky, and several young cousins. When grandma has to go away for a funeral, Boy is in charge of the household. At home he’s a grown up, cooking and cleaning and caring for the little ones. At school he’s still just a kid, making up stories about his jail-bird dad and getting into fights when those stories aren’t believed.
But then one day his dad shows up, along with two friends. They’re only intended to stay long enough to find the stolen money they buried before being pinched by the cops, but Boy sees it as potential bonding time.
It’s clear that the father is even less mature than his sons. He doesn’t know how to join them in grieving their dead mother, doesn’t know how to make up for lost time, doesn’t know how to put others first, and certainly doesn’t know how to give a decent haircut (though this doesn’t stop him from trying).
Watching this movie, I was struck by how Waititi feels a bit like a low-budget, New Zealand version of Wes Anderson. I don’t mean this in a copycat way, but rather that his movies share a certain randomness paired with an attention to detail that makes for a delightfully off-kilter movie going experience.
Waititi is bursting with talent, but he doesn’t spread himself too thin. He’ll workshop a script for years just to get it right, which means that there’s far too little of this innovative filmmaker to be had. I first came across him with what has become one of my favourite laugh-out-loud, painfully awkward comedies, Eagle VS Shark. Turns out, he was already an Oscar nominee by then, having received a nom for his live-action short, Two Cars, One Night (he lost but famously pretended to doze off as the list of nominees was read). He’s written and directed stuff for Flight of the Conchords (Jemaine Clement is a longtime friend and collaborator; the pair toured together as award-winning comedy duo The Humourbeasts). He’s also had a taste of big Hollywood, having starred opposite Ryan Reynolds in Green Lantern. But it’s these three movies (Eagle VS Shark, Boy, and What We Do in the Shadows) that are GOLD. You can’t ask for better than that. But I am asking for more.