Eagle vs Shark Reviews
Lily (Loren Horsley) is a shy, socially awkward fast food worker, who enjoys writing her music despite the ostensible fact that nobody cares enough to listen. She has a crush on a frequent customer named Jarrod (Jermain Clement), a geek who works in a video game store, and finally gets the opportunity to spend time with him when he invites her to a costume party with the only condition that Lily dress as her favorite animal; she shows up as a shark, while Jarrod goes as an eagle, claiming that, or a cobra, is his favorite animal.
What entails is a quirky romance only film could capture; a striking portrait of two social misfits, unaccepted by the masses, and free to guide themselves in the own strange, niche world they craft for themselves. The two don't wind up becoming friends as much as they do close, personal acquaintances given how little they explicitly let on to one another, particularly Jarrod, who lives so deeply in his own world he can't even adequately see what both him and Lily have in common - not even the mole they share above their upper lips. Jarrod has been plotting to take on a bully from high school in a fight in front of a large audience for the last several months, and Lily stands by his side, in utter compliance, largely because she's just so honored to be able to be seen beside the man of her dreams. As Jarrod slogs away at life, meticulously planning a meaningless brawl and taking nearly everything his family says as an offensive remark, Lily is there for him, be it a passive observer, or subtle moral support.
Therein lies the twinkling beauty of Eagle vs Shark; Lily's devotion and consistent loyalty to someone she probably knows, deep down, is four tires short of a car. Despite Jarrod's general initial indifference to her presence, he begins to see how Lily is the only person who has had his back since the beginning. Her incomparable trust and admiration for him almost effectively undermines the negative characteristics Jarrod embodies, including, but not limited to, sexism, close-mindedness, lack of empathy, and narcissism.
Taika Waititi's film embodies the similar kind of approach to outsider culture as Napoleon Dynamite did three years prior to Eagle vs Shark's release. The difference here is that rather than focusing on empty, intolerable characters we, the audience, were essentially laughing at rather than laughing with, Eagle vs Shark is more empathetic to its characters' situations and looks to profile them by examining why these two souls connect so well, or at least so nonchalantly, together. Waititi, who also serves as the film's writer, crafts a film bent on its own eccentric personality and sense of whimsy, and for the most part, succeeds on the charisma of both Horsley and Clement, who embody one of the more unique on-screen chemistries I have yet to see from independent films.
Is Eagle vs Shark consistently funny? Unfortunately no, and there are some long segments where the film drags and meanders, despite only being eighty-seven minutes (even the film's conclusion sometimes feels like it's frustratingly plodding to nowhere fast. Is the film occasionally grating because the personalities of the characters aren't wholly likable? Absolutely. These two nudging features make this film hard to truly love or embrace, but given Waititi's decision to make this a shorter film, one predicated, again, on the warmth of its settings and the quirks of its characters, the film winds up becoming a more tolerable character study than a frustrating examination of misfits. Misfits that, ultimately, you'd rather simply walk past on the street rather than linger on with a camera for an upwards of ninety minutes.
Starring: Loren Horsley and Jermaine Clement. Directed by: Taika Waititi.