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Pork Pie
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by Jay Seaver

"Tiny car, big road trip."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2017 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: There's something kind of charming about the very existence of this film, the result of a son making his own version of one of his father's films, although it needs a bit more than that for a hook to be more than a curiosity to someone who hadn't seen the 1981 original "Goodbye Pork Pie". I'm not sure whether "Pork Pie" actually finds that, although it plays nicely enough to be an enjoyable matinee, and has a few pretty impressive car bits as well.

It's a bit hampered in its choice of main characters; Jon (Dean O'Gorman) is a blocked and broke writer determined to win the woman he drove away back despite not having done much if anything to improve himself after driving Susie (Antonia Prebble) away decisively. His plan is to meet her at their friends' wedding (to which he wasn't invited), but there's the little problem of his car being on its last legs. Fortunately, he manages to talk his way into a yellow Mini Cooper being driven by Luke (James Rolleston) - which, of course, is stolen. So, sure, when Keira (Ashleigh Cummings) climbs out a drive-through window and into the backseat as she's fired for giving a hamburger joint's customers animal-rights pamphlets with their orders, why not add the rally she wants to attend to their road trip?

That plot is thin enough that the cast had better be pretty darn likable for the movie to thrive. It mostly manages this, even if it does ultimately need to balance Jon with a mother so heavy-handed in her opposition to Susie getting back together with him that his traveling clear to the other end of New Zealand to plead his case sounds almost reasonable. What's impressive is how filmmaker Matt Murphy and his cast don't go for particularly obvious chemistry right off; their banter is never quite awkward but it's not smoothed over by some obvious connection, and for a good portion of the movie, a bizarre or intrusive question will be met with a look that implies the second person can't quite remember why they're traveling with the first. It's never enough to break things, though, because there is an awkward chemistry and a shared impulsiveness to answer it.

Indeed, the filmmakers take their time giving the audience basic information on a few of the characters. It does, eventually, but that leaves a lot in the hands of the actors, trying to make the random situations they find themselves in something that says something about their characters. They do well; Dean O'Gorman is able to make Jon figuratively sober up enough that a viewer can believe he's gone from wanting one more chance to having a sincere apology in him while still stumbling over his own tongue. James Rolleston is initially called upon to play the most rigid of straight men, seeming to unclench but simultaneously become more alert when the time for crazy car stuff comes, eventually bringing that more to the forefront of his character. Ashleigh Cummings is able to give Keira's activism a youthful strength without it looking foolish. The folks they bump into tend to be entertaining as well, with Antonia Prebble selling that Susie is extraordinarily fed up with Jon without the lingering fondness seeming a counter, with Rima Te Wiata playing the really big frustration as her mother. And then there's Thomas Sainsbury playing a truly bonkers character in the film for the main purpose of seriously messing things up for the so-called "Blondini" group, a broad loony who detours the film well into the absurd.

On the other hand, while the excuses to take this road trip from one end of the country to the other are sometimes pretty shaggy, there's nifty car chase action to fill a lot of the gaps. That can be kind of random itself, but it looks great as the Mini Cooper the Blondinis are in drifts down winding roads, at one time practically pouncing onto a moving train (which itself follows its tracks right onto a fair to cross the strait between the two islands, and how am I just finding out that this is a thing, New Zealand?). Murphy seems to jump into a higher gear during these scenes just as the driver does, really enjoying the chance to show us who Luke is by how he does things rather than talking, and he's got the chops to switch these nimble and fast-paced scenes into vehicular slapstick when need be.

By the end, I'm not sure that the movie has exactly earned its finale: It's never really grown a plot which the audience can unabashedly root for out of the seeds planted early, even if the Blondinis have earned some affection and the action has been fun. It's enjoyable enough enough to watch from moment to moment that one is willing to forgive, and maybe make one curious enough to try and find a copy of the original to compare.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=31459&reviewer=371
originally posted: 09/21/17 19:23:50
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival For more in the 2017 Fantasia International Film Festival series, click here.

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Directed by
  Matt Murphy

Written by
  Matt Murphy

Cast
  Dean O'Gorman
  James Rolleston
  Ashleigh Cummings
  Antonia Prebble
  Matt Whelan



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