Film Review: Sione's Wedding
Director: Chris Graham
Writers: James Griffin & Oscar Kightley
Cast: Oscar Kightley, Robbie Magasiva, Shimpal Lelisi, Iaheto Ah Hi, Teuila Blakely
This enjoyable, modest comedy from the "Naked Samoans" must surely be Grey Lynn's finest hour. Between religious pressure, family expectations, and clubbing the Polynesian misfits must scrub up for their mate's wedding, get girlfriends, and behave themselves - or else they will be barred from Sione's wedding. A rather tenuous scenario, but a necessary threat it seems in transforming the (usually drunken) lads into something resembling adulthood. Given they are entering their thirties their predicament is not exactly confined to their ethnicity either - and their experiences and world as first generation migrants will resonate well beyond the inner suburbs of Auckland.
The four friends are tight - except when they turn up to other people's weddings - and then they proceed to get very loose and trash it in one way or another. They have shamed their church, families and community by lamentable antics and it seems to draw them closer together. The rapport between them is conveyed well and as we follow their individual dilemmas we are drawn in easily. As the date of the wedding approaches the boys are forced to confront their seemingly imploding love lives.
It crosses over somewhat from being a buddy flick to the ostensible romantic comedy it seems to be aiming for without any tensions about half way in as the pace quickens. At this point the female characters begin to exert themselves on the course of events and pull the plot into the serious relationship crises of which elements of drama flow naturally and are conveyed with gravity, especially the performance of Blakely. Kightley doesn't seem to need to try too hard to play a nerdy dork, and Magasiva has been type-cast as women bait long enough to know the ropes; but it was Lelisi and Ah Hi who were the stand-outs.
As a comedy the writing is fairly sharp and robust, the situations suitably absurd and the stereotyped white people laughable. But are they too crudely drawn? It might be genuinely hilarious to lampoon Glenfield wannabe gangstas, but as far as the portrayal of marginalised ethnic groups (ie. non-Samoans) is concerned the rude hand of Bro Town hovers. White people are either wiggers or a mute series of notches on Magasiva's bedpost. One wonders whether those Samoans would have taken roles where their ethnicity was to be directed as a Fawlty Towers' Manuel? Or perhaps these issues are just noticeable when it is the other way around for once.
For all the realities of multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Auckland this is a NZ Samoan story with NZ Samoan characters, seen through NZ Samoan eyes. It even includes a Miss Samoa - doing an adequate job given the background. But they are not drawing on a limited pallet by any means. There is depth here in personnel and an accessible sense of humour that should see audiences anywhere set for family-friendly, date-friendly entertainment.
I'll give it a respectable 3 out of 5 stars. Although the mist in Grey Lynn Park in one of the scenes is just so superb a more parochial reviewer might be tempted to go as high as 4. The release date is set for March sometime I believe.
Also No.2 is on screens in Auckland tomorrow - I'll put my review of that up soon. Anyone who read this month's Metro articles on these two films may have been disappointed by the review of No.2 that followed. I will concur with it in general, but not for the same reasons.