Spielberg and his colleague George Lucas [supposedly] predicted this Hollywood box office implosion approximately three years ago. This implosion is very similar to the 1960s, in which major Hollywood Studios were losing money producing movies like Hello Dolly and Cleopatra, while young independent cinema earned larger profit margins with films like Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy and American Graffiti. Everything old is new again.
Opening this weekend in neighborhood cinemas is Hunt for the Wilderpeople, an independent film from New Zealand. The most recognizable face is that of Sam Neill of Jurassic Park and The Piano fame. The most talked about actor from this wild independent film will be that of young Julian Dennison, who portrays the misfit Bobby.
Told in multiple chapters, this film opens with Ricky being deposited on a farm by a social worker. The troubled boy is treated warmly by the matriarch of the house, but he is kept at a distance by the curmudgeon Hec ( Neill). For a few idyllic months, Ricky is treated like a little boy, until the mother figure dies unexpectedly.
Not wanting to return to the cement jungle of his younger days, Ricky fakes his death to go live in the forest. Given that his bravado was formed by absorbing too much American pop culture, Ricky confuses fantasy with reality and is rescued by Hec.
While Hunt for the Wilderpeople has several serious scenes, this film is full of confrontational humor. When Hec first rescues Ricky, the hungry boy hallucinates that he is talking to a giant hamburger. Throughout this rites of passage film, we see the growth of two disparate people who grow to genuinely love and respect each other.
While there has been much good word of mouth for The Secret Life of Pets, which opens this weekend with full Hollywood marketing hype, the Hunt for the Wilderpeople is not as visible but is worthy of seeking out. Director (and co writer) Taika Waititi will be a name to reckon with in the box office future.