If Eagle vs. Shark doesn't take over Napoleon Dynamite's position at the top of the nerd-core film canon, it will be a shame. The movie, which will be released in select cities June 15, is a pitch-perfect, poignant and often hilarious look at love between two socially awkward misfits. I saw the film over the weekend at a sold-out screening at the San Francisco International Film Festival, and it truly was a movie where I both laughed and cried — often simultaneously.
The film, developed at the Sundance Institute by Oscar-nominated New Zealand writer-director Taika Waititi, focuses on Lily, a well-meaning but gawky oddball, and Jarrod, a lovable loser who doesn't know he's uncool. They connect at Jarrod's "come as your favorite animal" party, and she ends up tagging along on a trip to his hometown, where he plans to exact some ninja-style revenge on his high school nemesis. There, she meets his unsurprisingly dysfunctional family (swindling siblings, emotionally withdrawn father, child who could give Abigail Breslin's Little Miss Sunshine a run for her money) and tries to navigate her new relationship with a guy who thinks he's much more important than he is. To hear more about the film and watch the trailer,
Eagle vs. Shark isn't a movie that will overwhelm you with dialogue, but what's there is spot-on. When Jarrod leaves a phone message for his nemesis saying "justice is waiting" and the message-taker mishears "justice" as "Justin," well, that's just the kind of thing that would happen to Jarrod. And when Lily responds to Jarrod's "Do you want to kiss?" with a simple "yup," it somehow feels like the height of romance.
The soundtrack of fuzzy indie rock and adorable (if twee) animated interludes centering on a pair of rotten apples fit Eagle vs. Shark perfectly, but in the end, the movie belongs to Jarrod and Lily. Their occasionally frustrating but always big-hearted love story is something that anyone who's ever felt lonely and underappreciated will understand.
Photo courtesy of Miramax