Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Movie review: Shopping


Let's see here. Two brothers - the older one with father issues, the younger with an overactive imagination - growing up in a New Zealand coastal burb in the 80s.

Yes, from the outside Shopping, the debut feature of acclaimed shorts directing partners Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland, has quite some similarities to local box office champ, Boy.

But while it shares plenty of the juvenile charms of Taika Waititi's hit, especially in the hilariously touching performance of young Julian Dennison as younger bro Solomon, Shopping is its own movie, set in its own vividly-drawn world of dysfunctional families, cultural drift and slightly organised crime.

As such, it's a largely compelling, picaresque, rites-of-passage movie, one which neatly builds upon the potential of the co-directors' earlier kid-powered shorts Run and Six Dollar Fifty Man.

These guys clearly get kids.

And the performances of Dennison and Kevin Paulo as Willie, the film's teenage lead, show they sure know how to pick 'em and they sure know how to make 'em deliver effortless convincing performances.

Like its bonsai predecessors, Shopping is set on the Kapiti Coast where both film-makers grew up - and a place which has had its fair share of cinematic attention over the years, from local boy Peter Jackson's DIY debut Bad Taste on the cliffs of Pukerua Bay to Paul Murphy's 2008 feelgood hit Second Hand Wedding from up the road.

Essentially, Shopping is Willie's wayward coming-of-age story.

A caring older brother and loving if cheeky son to his Samoan mum (Fepuleai), Willie falls out with his hard-drinking palagi dad (Browning, one of the few familiar faces in a local movie otherwise refreshingly free of them), only to fall in with a bad bunch.

That's the gang of shoplifters led by the mysteriously accented and enigmatic Bennie (Australian veteran Koman) who counts his volatile teenage daughter Nicky among his unmerry band of thieves.

Drawn to Bennie with offers of driving lessons in his shiny Holden Monaro - this handsomely shot movie comes with the best beach hooning since World's Fastest Indian - Willie's job at a department store in town becomes useful to the gang's increasingly ambitious plans, while the time spent with his low-life new best mates estranges him further from his family. It's an increasingly menacing world Willie finds himself in as the fangs beneath Bennie's reptilian charms slowly reveal themselves.

And though the performances keep Shopping humming for the most part, it does suffer a sag in its storytelling in the latter stages with its plot strands not quite knitting together in the end.

Still, with its period-perfect setting and poignantly funny depiction of brotherhood, Shopping emerges as an affecting, memorable movie that is sure to figure in local best-of-year lists. Highly recommended.

Stars: 4/5
Cast: Kevin Paulo, Julian Dennison, Jacek Koman, Alistair Browning, Maureen Fepuleai, Laura Peterson
Directors: Mark Albiston and Louis Sutherland
Rating: R16 (violence, offensive language, drug use)
Running time: 98 mins
Verdict: Just like a bought one

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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