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Set in a stylised 1930s New Zealand that we wish we'd had, Jason
Stutter's PREDICAMENT manages to be both faithful to the book on which
its based, the period in which its set and to tip its hat to plenty of
movies made since that time (it would be silly to ignore them!).
Lonely and awkward (nerdy, in today's parlance) teenager Cedric (Hayden Frost) is delighted to be befriended by burly blowhard Mervyn Toebeck (Heath Franklin), but it isn't long before he's starting to regret inviting the freeloading oaf into his family home. When Mervyn's old chum The Spook (Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement, in a scene-stealing turn) starts hanging around and suggesting voyeurism and blackmail, things get quickly out of Cedric's depth.
The film is not slave to a page by page adaptation of the book. It rearranges a handful of key elements from the source novel -- mostly for chronology reasons -- and ventures, with sensitivity and success, into some of the psychology of Cedric's father (Tim Finn) and the tower he's building.
The film looks terrific, and is shot with a larger than life verve that captures the period but not without contemporary punch. It rolls along with tawdry fun and plenty of laughs -- particularly when Clement's Spook is playing off Franklin's Mervyn.
At times the fluid turns of the plotters' scheme may befuddle viewers unfamiliar with Ronald Hugh Morrieson's novel, but the character colour and unflagging likability of the puppyish Cedric will keep most people engaged until all the strands come together at the end.
Stutter's script is a lucid and thoughtful adaptation of a difficult book to adapt; Simon Raby's cinematography is superb; Clement is, as usual, batty fun. Aussie Franklin sometimes has trouble getting long tracts of period kiwi dialogue out 100% convincingly and Tim Finn is, oddly, better when he's being less kooky later in the film ... but the film is satisfying result for a film that's taken a long time to reach the screen and a fitting companion to the Came a Hot Friday and Scarecrow adaptations.
Great to be taken on a good old fashioned, tongue in cheek, dark
comedic ride.. Stand out performances from lead and support cast just
add to the roller coaster!
Encouraging to once again see a New Zealand film designed and shot with the cinema screen in mind, a credit to all involved!
The film makers have obviously 'made the most' of their resources, Predicament definitely has a big picture feel
Yet another example of the brave 'can do' ingenuity from independent NZ film makers.
Fun to watch, having read the book!
Thoroughly enjoyable, thank you!
Predicament was a thoroughly enjoyable film. Set in 1930's small town
New Zealand and adapted from a Ronald Hugh Morrison novel of the same
name, Predicament is a hard film to categorize as it touches on many
genres. The overall theme of the film is a crime drama, with a
fantastic comedy element woven throughout, which kept the plot
intriguing and the characters quirky. What makes the casting and story
really interesting is that the main character Cedric (film newcomer
Hayden Frost), even when partnered with two fantastic comedy
heavyweights Flight of the Conchords Jemaine Clement, and Heath
(Chopper) Franklin, never gets lost in the cast or upstaged as the main
character. Both Spook (Jemaine) and Mervyn (Heath) provide lots of
character personality, features & flaws that Cedric's character doesn't
have, which creates an unlikely trio of mischief that never lets up
from the opening to the closing credits. All the supporting actors are
great too, including kiwi icon Tim Finn, who plays a great character
that adds to poor Cedric's woes. I love fun films and that is exactly
what Predicament delivers - by the spade full. Amazing sets, cars &
costumes all come to life in the rich vivid colourful directing by
My whole family watched predicament when it opened the NZ film festival, and we all loved the film, including my "tweenage" kids who would have been some of the youngest in the audience, yet they too said it was now one of their favourite films. Predicament is a gem of a movie in that it delivered everything I could want from a film - great story, great laughs, great suspense and set to a fantastic musical score, with a catchy new Tim Finn song "Predicament" that I have been singing in my head ever since.
Ronald Hugh Morrieson's novel Predicament is a humorous, dark tale of
the seedy underbelly of a small New Zealand town. This movie keeps the
humour and tone of the book while also adding to it a modern freshness
to make it relevant to today's audience.
The lead cast all turn in excellent performances, not only to give the movie a great dramatic feel but also to deliver truly comedic moments that lighten what could otherwise, at times, be a pretty dark tale. Hayden Frost is perfect as Cedric, the awkward, friendless, and yet good- hearted teenager. Heath Franklin delivers a great performance as Mervyn, a manipulative and at times slightly threatening bludger. Tim Finn provides some special moments as Cedric's befuddled dad. But for many the highlight will be Jemaine Clement's creepy and yet deeply funny Spook.
A great script and terrific performances aside, this movie also looks fantastic. The art direction and costume design are impressively stylish and make the 30s look like a pretty cool time to be around. On top of this, the cinematography delivers a movie with lush colours and, at times, a darkness that is just perfect for the tone of the movie.
I thoroughly enjoyed my night out seeing this movie during the film festival, and the rest of the audience did too. This movie is bound to become a New Zealand classic and must be seen on the big screen to be truly appreciated.
The cringe factor is definitely back in New Zealand cinema. This could
have been a fantastic story (in fact, the book was.) Betrayal.
Blackmail. Dysfunctional characters. Humour. Intrigue. Murder.
But somehow it just didn't hold together. The characters were too stereotypical and evoked too much cringe factor (with the exception of Jemaine Clement's Spook, who injected some genuine fun into the film.) The script lacked a vision for capturing the darkness of the themes of the film (or conversely lacked sufficient humour to make up for the lack of darkness.) Overall it was too light hearted for the themes covered in the story - a story of blackmail, revenge and murder. Such a story required a liberal dose of black humour, but the script barely delves into somewhat-grey humour.
There are genuinely funny moments. But overall it was a disappointment and a missed opportunity to translate Morrieson's dystopian world to the screen.
Saw this last night and it was a massive disappointment. First of I
wanted to say that I think Stutter is a talented director, in terms of
his visual skills - as the art direction and camera work was first
rate. However the story, and casting was a major let down and left a
lot to be desired. Like any young director Stutter needed to hit some
what of a home run, to get another chance at bat - but after seeing
this film I think that he'd struggle. It's been just over a week now
since it's release and it's almost finished it theatrical run in
Auckland. Which is another way of saying, this is a major box office
flop - anyone who says otherwise is in dreamland.
The choice of story, just struck me as weird. Why as a young director would you choose an obscure local novel, set decades ago as the basis of your first flick? Surely he could have found something more relevant. Clement had some moments, but the other two leads weren't strong enough to carry the story. Overall I thought it wasn't funny enough to be comedy, and not interesting enough to work as a crime drama.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Ronald Hugh Morrison's novel 'Predicament' is a black comedy, a coming
of age yarn of carnal knowledge (involving a schoolgirl), blackmail and
murder. Set in the New Zealand in the '30s, the novel is infused with
small-town seediness and repressed sexuality. Director/writer Jason
Stutter shies away from this, neutering the story into inoffensive
blandness, that feels closer to 'The Goonies' than 'Chinatown'.
Stutter didn't exactly win the audience over at the gala premiere at the NZ Film Festival when he stated that he doesn't read much because he '...can watch forty films in the time it takes to finish a novel'. Still, adapting local literature has always been the easiest path for the venal to glean a few million dollars out of various funding bodies (did anyone pay to see the undercooked turkey that was last year's adaptation of 'Under the Mountain?). Watching 'Predicament', its obvious that he has no affinity for the material. Thus, his choice for his first 'real feature' gives off the stench of being merely a stepping-stone on his career path.
The film is another ho-hum example of simply watching a storyboard filmed. It's a tedious sequence of badly sketched characters bounded in boxes. It highlights all the hallmarks of an amateur with delusions of auterism. "Predicament' is a catalogue of all the laziest contemporary tricks-of-the-trade; from the pointless Cinema-scope lensing (why? because Tarantino always frames in it, of course!), the constant camera movement (crane swoops down at the drop of a hat) and the bland, yet ever-present score (Plan 9 trot out trombones and xylophones), its the hollow artifice of stale technique trouncing the audience to not fall asleep. Never once, throughout all this visual Sturm and Drang does the story connect with its audience.
Stutter utterly fails to convey a sense of time and place. He's so disinterested in the morals of the era and the vernacular of time, that at one point a character utters "You better harden the f*** up!". Its a cringe-inducing tip of the hat to the Guy Ritchie school, but not nearly so tragic as an earlier 'homage' (groan!) to 'Reservoir Dogs'. For Stutter, cinema was born in the 1980's. He's a total square, and like so many of his peers, actually stepping outside of the square is not a career option.
The director is a 20-something prude. His screenplay performs a literal vasectomy upon the novel. Here is a writer so bereft of balls, that he visualises a sex scene as a pair of female legs kicking the air... replete with off-screen moaning. The material needs a Verhoven, not a shrinking violet virgin. Here is so milquetoast a director, that he climaxes an off-screen decapitation by...tracking into the screaming mouth of the woman who witnessed it. Being hackeneyed is too good for this hack .
The worst is saved for last. The novel's climax is a frittered affair, but consulting his preferred bed-side reading tome, (screen-writing guru Syd Field's bible on How-To-Construct-a-Screenplay, perchance?), Stutter- the writer who doesn't read much, 'ties up all the threads' and achieves 'resolution' in the most trite fashion (as dictated by Field's soulless formulae of cliché). It's risible, and how wretched it is, to suffer through the dull spectacle of a director ticking off a check-list -('turning point'-Tick!...) when all one wanted was a for story to unfold or to be mildly entertained. Watching this adaptation is like paying to watch an illiterate spitting on Morrison's grave.
..after the polite applause died off, (which was well before the kowtowing "Extra Special Thanks to Sir. Peter Jackson..." credit), the audience shuffled out. At these events, the standard response mustered from the unimpressed is a tactful "Well, it wasn't TOO bad...". Yet, after 'Predicament', not a single person I spoke to had anything positive to say. The consensus was that the film never connected, the actors never stood a chance, their characters never came to life on-screen.
I predict box office death for this cynically produced, misguided mess.
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