The Breaker Upperers ★★★

This is a pretty good first film that compares positively to, say, EAGLE VS. SHARK (another first film by NZ comedy talent who turned out to make out some flat-out great films down the line). I laughed a lot and there's a lovely undercurrent about the sadness of late 30s/early 40s life, particularly for women. There's a marriage of tone between the more naturalistic sadness (more the Van Beek side) and the absurd side (more the Sami side) that often doesn't gel for me, and there's some lumpy character moments and motivations, but I'd recommend it, and I'd definitely recommend seeing it in the theatre for optimum laughs. (I saw it in a full house, which certainly didn't hurt!)

As a side note, I usually avoid writing about NZ films I'm not 4+ star enthusiastic about, mostly for political reasons, but the dialogue around this film has started to drive me nuts, as it seems divided between wild hype and wild anti-hype. There is such a thing as a pretty good but not great first film and this is it, and as someone who has made a film, I think "pretty good first film" is a massive fucking accomplishment, particularly in the high-risk world of comedy. A healthy NZ film culture would have room for measured takes, and while I don't doubt the sincerity of the enthusiastic, I suspect that those who lean towards "okay but not great" keep their mouth closed, which makes people who otherwise would be "meh" actively hostile. So fuck it. THE BREAKER UPPERERS isn't great, but it's definitely okay. And that's okay.