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Rare Birds
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Reviews & Ratings for
Rare Birds More at IMDbPro »

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18 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

William Hurt, and Newfoundland, in starring roles

7/10
Author: trendell-1 (tcurran@cyberus.ca) from Ottawa, Canada
13 May 2002



I'm a Newfoundlander, so of course I enjoyed "Rare Birds"! There aren't that many movies made in, or about, Newfoundland, and when one does appear, I dash off to see it, regardless of the reviews. I can report, though, that I enjoyed this film, frequently laughing out loud. For some of the laughs, though, you have to know the place and the jargon, and some of the humour might be lost on the average Canadian or American.

(In much the same way, one can feel left out in a foreign-language film - including some British films - when those viewers who actually speak the on-screen language are laughing, and one doesn't get the joke.)

The story is slight, but it more or less works. The main plot involves a chef, David (William Hurt), whose haute-cuisine restaurant, The Auk, near Cape Spear (some 8 miles south and east of St. John's, the capital city) is going fish-belly up, to coin a phrase. According to David's friend Alphonse (Phonse in the local shorthand, and played by Andy Jones, a Newfoundland writer/actor/comic) it's because David hasn't done a proper marketing job, because certainly he has the gourmet skills, as well as a fabulous wine cellar. To revive interest in the restaurant, Phonse hatches (almost literally) a scheme to attract bird-watchers to the area by claiming a sighting of a duck long thought to have been extinct - putatively the "rare bird" of the title, although one suspects that the real "rare birds" are Phonse and David themselves.

(Most Newfoundlanders, and a few others, will know that the Great Auk, the bird for which David's restaurant is named, was hunted to extinction on the Newfoundland coast more than a century ago.)

There are several comic sub-plots in the film, the best of which is Phonse's RSV, the "recreational submarine vehicle" that he has constructed in his shed and which he recruits David to assist him in dive-testing. There is another sub-plot about a 26-pound cache of cocaine that Phonse has found on the shore, and yet another about a bizarre lighting invention from a Bulgarian scientist who was once Phonse's partner. The local RCMP also get into the picture, doing a sort of Atlantic-coast Keystone Kops routine. It's a fragile effort and totally silly, but no-one should really mind seeing Canada's finest portrayed as something like the back-ends of their justly famous steeds for the brief time they're on screen.

The love interest in the film, Alice, who is introduced to the married but separated David by Phonse, is played by the talented and lovely Molly Parker ("Sunshine", and the soon to be released "Hoffman"). She and William Hurt generate very good chemistry, and I came away wishing that the film had made much more of them than it did. (Interestingly, Hurt and Parker were both in "Sunshine", a Canadian co-production, although they never appear on-screen together.)

The story-line of "Rare Birds" is slight enough, and the dialogue is a bit wanting. So, to a very large degree, the film is carried by the hugely talented and accomplished Hurt. He does a kind of "loaves and fishes" miracle with the material at hand, making a near-banquet out of a box-lunch. For the other principals, I was left with the sense that, talented though Andy Jones certainly is, film is not really his medium, although he does well enough. In Molly Parker's case, I didn't feel that she had quite enough opportunity to shine, but when she does have the chance, she is, as always, incandescent.

As expected, the Newfoundland topography, a Rock within a sometimes violent sea, takes a starring role. The rugged landscape, the roiling surf hurling itself against the jagged shore-line, is irresistible. Of course, I'm from the place, and almost any glimpse of the island sets my heart thumping. But - PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!! - will somebody, someday, make a film in Newfoundland that depicts a sunny day. The winters there are long and harsh, spring is not much more than a fond hope, the summers are almost always too short, and the wind blows a great deal of the time. But the sun really does shine, and quite a lot of the time, in all four - alright, three-and-one-half - seasons. Really, it does. You have my word on it. It would be so nice to see a film that actually showed that. Just once.

Go see "Rare Birds". It's worth it, and it's good, clean fun.

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18 out of 25 people found the following review useful:

One of the most entertaining little movies I've ever seen!

10/10
Author: yossarian100 from usa
23 August 2003

What does a recovered package of cocaine, a gourmet restaurant in the middle of nowhere, two of the most delightful and oddest friends I've ever met, the most naturally sexy redhead I've ever seen, Svetkoff Lights, a 1200 pound ultra-light submarine, an extinct species of duck, and undercover agents from the RCP have in common? One of the most entertaining little movies I've ever seen! The author driven screenplay kept me chuckling for the entire movie and I did not want the movie to end. What an absolute delight for both a story and a film. I loved it!!!

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12 out of 17 people found the following review useful:

Highely underrated, lovely absurd movie

8/10
Author: Ronald Clercx from Oostende, Belgium
12 September 2005

In this day and age of fast paced, overstylished movies, comes this tale of a chef and his close friend, who tries to save his buddies deserted restaurant, by inventing the sighting of a near extinct duck near the location to attract customers.

While this is going on, there is still time left to work on a recreational submarine, in a basement which is filled with cocaine and the most strange flat lamps.

Hurt is acting his guts out as the clumsy, near nerve wrecked chef who's lost in an absurd world. And there is romance too.

Well, it's a long time ago I didn't see a movie which reminded me of another one, and this alone is quite an accomplishment. A lovely little movie, quite serene and if you ask me highly underrated pearl of creative cinema.

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4 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Rare birds. Well done movie.

6/10
Author: George Parker from Orange County, CA USA
16 November 2002

"Rare Birds" tells of a hapless Newfoundland restaurant owner/cook (Hurt) whose remote seaside restaurant is suffering from insufficient patronage due to a lack of advertising. A quirky friend (Jones) hatches a plot suggesting Hurt report the sighting of a nearly extinct duck to encourage bird watchers to flock to his eatery thereby stimulating his business while he's being stimulated by thoughts of his comely waitress (Parker)...etc. A fun and earnest flick which trudges through it's wry tale relying on understated tongue-in-cheek humor and quirkiness for entertainment, the film includes other salients such as a home made submarine, 22 pounds of cocaine, some much coveted sheet lights, and an RCMP SWAT team for additional substance. Overall, "RB" is a warm hearted little flick for those who don't mind off-kilteredness and the absence of the usual Hollyweird appurtenances. (B-)

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5 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

The lead characters fit perfectly into the geography and the actors fit the characters like a glove.

10/10
Author: Guy (shovlin1@earthlink.net) from Allen, Texas
28 August 2004

I love Canada and more importantly I find a built in appeal for the Maritime Provinces. The sophistication of our 'Islandic' Northern neighbors is combined, in this movie, with a naive understanding of life on the mainland. Some lawful transgressions are treated with the direct and forthright honesty these illegalities deserve, while others are misunderstood and explode like a bomb, literally. William Hurt is great, as usual, as the straight man and Andy Jones, as Phonce, is the kind of optimistic friend everyone needs when times are hard. Small stories weave together with comfortable twists and turns while the rugged Newfoundland coast is always pounding away in the background. I sympathize with Hurt, trying to patch a broken relationship while being tempted with a new one. Molly Parker, as the new temptation, is appealing. I highly recommend this remake of Das Boot.

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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

I haven't laughed that hard in a long time

10/10
Author: Brikindewall-12 from California
12 December 2003

I don't know about the people that did not like this film but I found this film to be truely hillarious. Great Acting, Direction, Casting, Plot, Script, and Cinemetography. An A. I can not believe that Andy Jones did not get nominated for best Suporting Actor. True comic genius rarely gets recognized. William Hurt did a fine job. Although I could of done without seeing his arse. I will dream of Molly Parker tonight, I can tell you that. If you are a male above 25 you probably will enjoy this film imenssely. I don't know about the female perssuasions view on this movie because I am not one but I garauntee you will not be disapointed in this little talked about Gem of a movie. Cudos to the director Sturlla Gunnarsson I will definitely check out your next movie.

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8 out of 14 people found the following review useful:

Rare Find

9/10
Author: LivingDog from NYC, NY
9 March 2003

I can't help but like this one. Everything about it reminds me of "The Dish" another "foreign import" that takes you away to another time (aka attitude) and another people - real people.

"Phonce" is brilliantly played by Andy Jones. He's a friend's friend - an all out go to guy... and asking nothing in return. Him and "Dave" (John Hurt) are good friends. I got a sense of a real bond on the screen. It carried the film through slower moments.

If you like "The Dish" you'll love this rare find of a movie. Afterall, you have to come across it on a cable station in order to find it. 9/10

- Zafoid

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5 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Charming

7/10
Author: David from Houston
14 August 2002

Much commentary I have read on this film compares it to "The Shipping News" because it is set in Newfoundland. I would like to stress, however, that this movie is in no other way like "The Shipping News". Thank goodness. "Rare Birds" tells the story of Dave, a struggling restaurant owner who is recently separated from his wife. In order to boost Dave's spirits, and his business fortunes, his crackpot friend Alphonse (or "'Phonse") cooks up a scheme to lure bird watchers to the area. Meanwhile, Dave begins to fall in love with 'Phonse's sister-in-law. This is a charming film due in part to the beautiful scenery of the Newfoundland coast (which was so drearily washed-out in "The Shipping News"). The real gem of this film, however, is Dave's friend, 'Phonse, the inventor who sees conspiracies everywhere and always makes sure to have a "Plan B". I definitely recommend this film for some light, entertaining fare. I gave it a 7.

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3 out of 6 people found the following review useful:

Really, really good movie. No exaggeration.

10/10
Author: IslandMadMacs from Honolulu, Hawaii
15 June 2006

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

Wonderful, fantastic, special, and yes - Rare.

I know I detest it when reviewers gush, particularly for a marginal film whose mindless hordes of fans are whipped into passion by the legion of talking heads. Parroting what they say, or worse, believing what they've witnessed actually stumbles its way into the 'special' category. I can think of a good dozen half-baked flicks where it's more important to invoke the sanctioned dogma rather than speak a personal truth. ('Titanic' and 'Dr. Strangelove' come to mind)

This isn't one of them.

Just finished watching "Rare Birds" and I'm genuinely floored - exhausted even. I'm laughed and loved out, totally depleted from the joy of this film. It's been a loooooong time since I enjoyed losing myself in a mildly out-of-kilter world inhabited by good friends, good meals, fine wines, a stunningly beautiful woman, industrial spies from the recreational vehicle conglomerates, 20 kilos of cocaine, perpetual fusion energy, an extinct mallard, and lest we forget, a homemade submarine of questionable seaworthiness. (note to self: gotta fix that brake)

If you loved "Local Hero", this will find a wonderful home in your collection. I'm planning on purchasing an extra just for the office - for when I need to 'get away'.

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4 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

Reminded me of a buffet, "Take all you want, but eat all you take"...

1/10
Author: Andy (film-critic) from Bookseller of the Blue Ridge
6 August 2006

Before every episode of that sci-fi classic television series X-Files there would be a promotional teaser that would claim, "All of your questions will be answered…" While you would watch the show, hoping that Mulder and Scully would finally find the answers to life, ultimately by the end, there would be more questions with very very few answers. It was the X-Files and over time we found ourselves used to no questions answered, and continued randomness coupled with confusion. Rare Birds seemed to be directed by an obvious X-Files fan, because here you have a film that is being marketed as the next Saving Grace or Waking Ned Devine, but oddly ends up like neither of these films and more like an unanswered episode of that alien miniseries. There are so many unanswered questions with implausible moments in Rare Birds that instead of focusing on the possible great and unique characters, our minds get muddled in the tangent, random, and completely unfocused story. Rare Birds could have been a comfortable film, it could have been easy, simple, and relaxed, but too many unfamiliar coincidences caused this "independent" film to flap poorly in the wind. Rare Birds will transform any avid bird enthusiast into a full-fledged hunter, shooting any bird that step within their path!

What makes Rare Birds an interesting film (and keep in mind this is the only interesting part of the film) is that as you watch this film, you can pinpoint exactly where the muddling begins. There is an exact moment in this film where you can see that the director wanted to add so many different elements that they could not control them all. From the tangent cocaine story(causing unfocused elements in characters that are not developed), to the scientifically profound lights, to the recreational submarine, all the way to the supposed central focus of this film … the rare bird. One would think that the rare bird story, hoping to build a sorrowed character's life to be better, would be the central moment, the breaking moment, but instead the rare bird story is just as unfocused as the rest of the film. Early in the film Hurt and Jones go into Jones' basement and all of these stories collide together. Sadly, when we leave the basement, nothing has been straightened out. This is when our story, Rare Birds, begins to burn and into a slowly crashing direction. It is obvious that Edward Riche's novel has quite a bit more about the characters and their inner-voice explaining better situations. Alas, this did not transform well into a film version. Director Gunnarsson has way too much on the plate, and as we see in other films in the same vein, there becomes a fuzzy central focus. The rare bird story should have been the focus, but instead we attempt to learn about cocaine (and Dave's apparent addiction), the "Winnebago" group, and some random science light issue that is never fully explained thoroughly. Rare Birds starts strong, but ultimately fails because of the classic "buffet-line" issue. Gunnarsson should have followed the rules, "Take all you want, but eat all you take"!

Occasionally with films that are as painful as Rare Birds, you sometimes get a great cast that overshadows the failing story. Hurt is awful. I have seen him in so many good films over the years, but this seemed to be too simple of a role for him. Was he doing it for just the cash or was he overplaying the simpleton character? I couldn't tell. Hurt seemed to play Dave with so much remorse, so much pain, that you never could understand what his true story was. His reaction to his wife was flimsy, the story between him and Molly Parker was subsequently as weak, and his reactions to Jones were uncharismatic. He felt bored in this film, and instead of being funny, he just felt sad. His character was nothing to write home about, and I blame Hurt because I know he could have pushed deeper and had fun with Dave overall creating an enjoyable hour and a half. This did not happen, and we were pained for that exact amount of time. The same can be said for Molly Parker who danced her way out of our hearts and Andy Jones who played his character to discretely. There was too much counterbalance between Hurt and Jones that they could not play off each other well. What could have been a decent buddy scenario like Waking Ned Devine turned out to be just two characters talking about incoherent nothing. The story matched the characters, overall souring this film.

Overall, Rare Birds was a horrible film. It had the potential to be just a simple, sweet story about friends helping each other, but instead too much was thrown into the mix to muddle the overall tone of the story. With the synopsis centering around some rare birds helping a friend gain new business, I went into the film expecting a buddy story centered with this rare bird story. Alas, it never really congealed that way. That is the biggest gripe of this film. I don't mind getting into a film and experiencing something different, but this was a completely tangent storyline. Nothing was ever developed, nothing was ever answered. I really didn't want an answer by the end of the film, but at the end I felt cheated and wronged. Even the supposed "love story" didn't seem real, but instead very forced. Pass on Rare Birds if you can. It has nothing to do with friendship and very little to do with birds.

Grade: * out of *****

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