Sunday, August 19, 2012
Kiwi Cinema Showcase: The Most Fun You Can Have Dying
Despite hailing from the green grassy land of New Zealand, I can't say I'm too keen on our output of films. I'm not sure what it is, but it mostly has to do with the fact that we have horrible accents. I know that you all said that I have an "adorable accent", but you try watching Shortland Street for a week and you'll know just how horrible they sound. However, I'm always keen to give things a go, so every now and again, I'll showcase whatever NZ film I've seen lately. And liked, hopefully. First up is the very recent The Most Fun You Can Have Dying, which is out on DVD in NZ at the moment - I'm not sure if it has any distribution anywhere else but it sure as hell deserves to.
Based on the novel Seraphim Blues by Steve Gannaway, The Most Fun You Can Have Dying follows Michael (Matt Whelan), a young man diagnosed with cancer. Instead of staying at home and feeling sorry for himself, Michael sets out on a path of self-destruction by partying, having sex and drinking copiously. His community bands together to raise enough money for treatment that could possibly save his life, but he decides to take the money and escape on an OE to live out the rest of his days. In Europe, he meets up with Frenchwoman Sylvie (Roxane Mesquida), who is an equally self-destructive person. And yeah, we get to see a whole lot of nice locations. Nice locations in which are used to their full potential, because director Kristin Marcon knows how to make a film, as opposed to shooting a film. That's another thing I find slightly annoying about NZ cinema - so few want to push the ballot and try something as small as different angles or filters. But Marcon gives an otherwise extremely dark film such vibrant beauty, with undertones of the French New Wave coming through time and time again. She's one director who we ought to watch...and yeah, I'd just like to point out that this is yet another talented female director to come out of NZ, so there's hope for me yet.
It sure is a nice film to look at, but it isn't the easiest to go through. At times, you could find yourself thinking "wow, Michael, you're really a prick", but I often connect to these stories of self-destruction in a strange sort of way. Sylvie, however, was extremely difficult to connect to. There are several scenes where we see that she's suicidal, but we never know why. And then all of sudden, she'll be fine again. The love story that brings the two together isn't all that exciting, but I was surprised by how little Marcon goes into detail with that sort of thing. There's a complete lack of melodramatics, but sometimes a lack of actual feeling. In some ways, that could come down to Roxane Mesquida's slightly dull performance and her really dodgy character. However, Matt Whelan carries the entire film on his shoulders, and amazingly, he gives a completely engaging performance, horrible accent and all. I never would have believed that he was capable of such a masterful thing, even though he was pretty good in last year's surprising NZ hit My Wedding and Other Secrets, but is otherwise known for the average NZ television show Go Girls (which also stars The Cabin in the Woods' Anna Hutchison, by the way). Whelan gives a totally heart-wrenching performance, totally embodying the broken body and mentality of Michael in a way that so few Hollywood actors could even dream of. Pana Hema Taylor also provides wonderful support, becoming the true emotional strain of the movie since Michael is so devoid of life. The scenes between Whelan and Taylor towards the end were brilliant.
The Most Fun You Can Have Dying bridges the gap between 50/50 and Requiem for a Dream: like 50/50, where it doesn't have melodramatics it has realism, but unlike that film, it is injected with a lethal dose of self-destruction and reckless abandon, harking back to those stark images of Requiem for a Dream. Mix that in with French New Wave sensibilities and you have a surprisingly good, if a little flawed, film that I honestly wasn't expecting that much from. It wasn't a wholly affecting experience, but it was still extremely effective.
What I got: