Jemaine Clement, Hayden Frost, Heath ‘Chopper’ Franklin, Tim Finn! A new generation of comic talent has a ball in Jason Stutter’s film of Ronald Hugh Morrieson’s cult classic of Kiwi Gothic lit.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2010
Director Jason Stutter has fastened on to Ronald Hugh Morrieson’s Predicament, a rich and lurid wonder of Kiwi lit, and made a gleefully macabre comedy of grave adolescent misadventure. Delving with relish into the seamy underside of a nameless Taranaki town (circa 1933), it’s the story of Cedric, a lonely teenager permanently mortified by the very public eccentricity of his widower father (a sweetly out-there Tim Finn) who’s been gypped out of his land by the town’s improbably sleek property developers, the Bramwells.
Bored, his head as full of adventure classics as Jason Stutter’s is of genre movies, Cedric seems a sitting duck to Mervyn Toebeck (Heath Franklin), a sponging, fast-talking, deeply dodgy cove of indeterminate age, who inveigles his way into coming to stay. Cedric and this new best friend hatch a get-rich plan that will also exact revenge on the Bramwells: they will stalk the odious cocksure Bramwell Jr and take incriminating photos of a very intimate nature. Enter Mervyn’s confederate Spook, incarnated with sinister brilliance by Jemaine Clement. Spook’s flesh looks cold to the touch and he speaks with the reedy little voice of a slowly cogitating weasel. Mayhem beckons.
Stutter matches the narrative exuberance of the original with comic-book visual flourishes. Lovingly art-directed in scene-stealing detail, shot with considerable élan by Simon Raby, Predicament is an enjoyably gothic imagining of a time when the expression ‘moral turpitude’ actually meant something. Hayden Frost works wonders as Cedric, the good egg whose curly Predicament it is, and gives Stutter’s abundant style its crucial counterpoint: a steady, ticking heart. — BG
“Predicament is a fitting tribute to Morrieson, a fun slice of Kiwi black comedy and proof of a blossoming director on the rise.” — Judah Finnigan, Salient