Road trip movies usually consist of the same formula: a group of misfits travel an undisclosed distance to complete a harebrained task at hand. Most of the time these movies are hilarious, even if they tend to be predictable. However, there are the rare gems that come along that unexpectedly shape into an inward look at who the characters truly are at their core and move beyond the genre of the road trip. Pork Pie, the new film by Matt Murphy, is not only a diamond in the rough of a road trip movie, it’s an escapade into self realization.
Don’t get me wrong, this movie is quite hilarious. The comedy is close to perfection, allowing for a balance between immediate and lingering spaced punchlines to occur. Maybe it’s a New Zealand thing, or just great storytelling, either way I’m grateful. There’s an ease to the comedy that unfolds at a steady pace, and then it knocks you out with its hilarity. Nothing within the humor feels forced, an important element because sometimes comedy can feel aggressive as it searches for a laugh.
Pork Pie should be in a master class about timing. Not only is the comedy laid out in an ideal way, but the story transpires at a constant pace. Everything from the way the plot details are revealed to the way the characters (and their quirks) are introduced, the audience is into it from the very beginning. These characters may fit into the recipe for a road trip caricatures, but the unexpected details and the way they’re exposed changes everything about the film.
Both the story and characters are explained to you at a proper pace, and most of the time are clarified without being said, truly taking to heart the rule of “show, don’t tell.” There are cinematic elements to progress the plot that may seem like a fantasy, but the roadblocks they encounter are real repercussions for their actions. It’s a balanced film of escapism and truth.
The three main characters, lovelorn Jon (Dean O’Gorman), delinquent Luke (James Rolleston), and activist Keira (Ashleigh Cummings) creates a functional dysfunctional family. As in real life, personality traits come to the surface as they should, through honest interaction and situational experiences. These characters are living and breathing beyond the page, and thanks to the brilliant acting by this trio, these characters become tangible. It’s not long before the audience feels deeply connected to them, rooting for them to succeed and annoyed when they do less than intelligent things.
With any film, there are always elements that are expected. After almost 100 years of film, the idea of an original film is beyond hopeful. To make the point even more solid, Pork Pie is in fact a remake of a 1980 film called Goodbye Pork Pie (which was directed by Geoff Murphy, Matt Murphy’s father). Even with this point of reference, the situations seem to unfold specifically for this film. I have not seen the original, so I’m not sure what is “borrowed” and what is original, but for me the course of the film felt fresh. There is a unique air surrounding this film, with the audience not being able to fully predict what’s going to happen, and that makes for an enjoyable ride.
These unexpected elements add another level to the breaking of the road trip mold. While they are on the road their situations expand and change from the initial plan and moves into a personal growth film.
The tone does shift towards the end of the film, but it’s not jarring. On the contrary, it’s welcomed. The audience cares about these people, and even if the situation is farcical, there is depth within them. The delicate shift between comedy and sentiment is impressive, and it’s this balance that adds the fullness of the film. There is more to this story, to these characters, than the road trip at hand, and that causes the cemented affection for the film in our hearts.
This move was a surprising journey through comedy and character growth, finding a perfect balance that so many films strive for. I had high expectations going into the film, and I’m proud to report that Pork Pie exceeds them all.
PORK PIE will be available to rent and own on Digital HD MARCH 6.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Freestyle Digital Media