Rose Matafeo, Matthew Lewis, Rachel House, Emily Barclay, Madeleine Sami
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…some of the uneasiest laughs of the year, but they’re still here in abundance.
New Zealand comedies, at their best, mine everyday social awkwardness for golden cringe material; breaking down the kind of wincing-in-between-giggles conversation that most mainstream cinema merely glances at. It’s a methodology that seems of great interest to studio Piki Films, who are in the middle of a capital run between Taika Waititi’s Hunt For The Wilderpeople and Jojo Rabbit, as well as The Breaker Upperers. And their latest feature fits in that lane, if not going even further with that intent.
Rose Matafeo’s expectant mother is a turbine that runs on raw nervous energy, and Matthew Lewis as the pappy-to-be is continuously attempting to keep his world, and relationship, stable and failing miserably. They work well together, but there’s a constant rift between them that keeps things from being too cute. Especially when they work off fellow Piki Films alumni, like Rachel House’s school principal and Breaker Upperers’ Madeleine Sami as a nurse.
In its Apatowian use of childbirth as the breaking point for the parents to finally become adults, Sophie Henderson’s scripting covers a lot of bases in that shaky transition. Specifically, the anticipation (a gender reveal party where everything from the food to the ice cubes are baby-themed), how it can throw a monkey wrench in whatever stability may exist in a relationship (Matafeo and Lewis rave-dancing while holding a night-light), and how it might not even change all that much for the people involved.
It all lands on sturdy ground, but unlike the bulk of the more recent NZ cinematic crop, this film might go a bit too far when it comes to the cringe at its core. And the reason why can be summed up in one word: preggophile. On paper, it fits in with the larger spectrum of how having children changes relationships between people, but on-screen, it makes for the wrong kind of uncomfortable viewing, and an addition that almost overrides everything else through sheer ‘dafuq?!’
But even with that in mind, this is still decent stuff. Its approach to the subject matter is refreshing, even if the narrative isn’t as well-formed as it could have been; the acting is solid from the major players to the supporting cast, and as distracting as some aspects can get, it’s still really damn funny. They’re some of the uneasiest laughs of the year, but they’re still here in abundance.