A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this quirky New Zealand film has a following on YouTube, so teens may already have seen clips of it there. Quirky and a bit dark, it's far from your typical romantic comedy. The main character, Jarrod, is off-putting, callous, and rude, and at times his relationship with the female lead feels masochistic. There are plenty of dark moments (including glimpses at a family torn apart by suicide), as well as lots of strong language ("f--k", variations on slang for male genitalia, and more). There's also a definite undercurrent of violence: Jarrod is a champ at beating opponents in an aggression-filled video game, and he trains to beat up a childhood bully. Still, older teens may be able to see beyond Jarrod's unappealing exterior -- especially since his sweet-though-gawky girlfriend seems to be able to find some good in him.
What's the story?
In this quirky romantic comedy, gawky frump Lily (Loren Horsley), a fast food restaurant cashier, develops a major crush on a store clerk who comes in every day for lunch. To Lily, Jarrod (Jemaine Clement) is a dreamboat hero. In reality, he's a clumsy, insecure goof who puts others down, including his biggest fan, Lily. It's a monumental feat: He really is, as he later describes himself, a "loser." For example, at a costume party he says he likes her shark costume but that his eagle outfit is "cooler." And the day after they first sleep together, he tells her, "That was some good sex last night, eh?" Then, when she helps him get to his hometown so he can complete what he claims is his "revenge mission" (beating up his childhood nemesis), he repays her by breaking up with her.
Is it any good?
Overall the film is pretty funny and Loren Horsley imbues her character with both pathos and grace. But Clement comes across as so despicable that some viewers may find him too pathetic to love. The fun he pokes at geek- and jerk-dom is almost too pointed -- which makes it a challenge to buy Lily's utter devotion. Though awkward, she's dignified, big-hearted, and generous in spirit.
Writer-director Taika Waititi's deserves applause for his zeal, which results in a fairly successful and mostly hilarious -- though not always palatable -- film. The movie, after all, is about there being someone for everyone, even bona fide losers -- and Jarrod's a complete dud. Hollywood has told this story before, but the "losers" are never total washouts: They're more like ugly ducklings who only need a makeover to come out a swan. It would take major plastic surgery and a personality transplant to make Jarrod a swan.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how this cinematic romance bucks the Hollywood trend. Is it believable? Does the "there's someone for everyone" message come off as hopeful or sad (i.e. some people have to settle for "losers")? Then again, is the typical Hollywood romantic comedy any more believable? Families can also discuss how video and computer games are presented in the movie -- and read more about the link between video games and violence.
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