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Serendipity is a story telling device used by film makers to bring together unlikely scenarios and unlikely people by happenstance for the benefit of a unique entertainment experience. When the story is told well, the randomness feels natural and that this fate was meant to bring them together. Pork Pie is one of those serendipitous experiences retold by the writer/director Matt Murphy from the 1981 New Zealand classic.
Jon (Dean O’Gorman) is a down-on-his-luck novelist who has lost everything that he considers important in his life. One of his personal life decisions brings him to a crossroads, to try to move forward with life or to make things right. He decides to choose the latter and heads out onto the road. While beginning this adventure to redemption, he finds himself hitchhiking to a wedding on the highways of the North Island of New Zealand. While on the road, he catches a ride with Luke (James Rolleston) who happens be on the run from the authorities because of his choice to steal the apricot-coloured Mini Cooper. While still trying to get to the wedding and evading the police force, they manage to be joined by the vegan activist Kiera (Ashleigh Cummings) on their race across the island. She manages to add a new level of purpose to their journey by including them in the viral universe of protesting for animal rights. These inadvertent fugitives mange to develop a bond of friendship that leads to a deeper meaning and direction for all of their lives. What presents as a meaningless car chase across the beautiful landscapes of this island nation speeds away to become a heart-warming message of redemption.
The cross-country chase is a familiar vehicle for filmmakers to include adventure and comedy, but Pork Pie offers two components that differentiate it from many that have come before. The first element is the chase occurring across the beautiful landscapes of New Zealand. The people, picturesque views and unique culture becomes a fourth character in this comedic car chase. It provides a beautiful backdrop to an ubiquitous genre and the real value of the film, the central cast. This illogical set of characters would not come together in any other setting than a cinematic comedy, but for whatever reason this combination simply works. No one off the islands of New Zealand may know any of these actors or that the whole film is based on a 1981 film, but this does not matter. O’Gorman and Rolleston manage to portray a connection that rivals any buddy road trip film from the past. Their comedic timing and the depth of emotion portrayed by both actors drives this story along, regardless of some of the glaring plot holes. Then to add the potential love interest of Ashleigh Cummings into the mix moves this from an odd pairing of two men to appealing, but organised chaos.
Like most cross-country narratives, the logic of timelines and the lack of probable consequences are left on the road side. To think too deeply about the lack of damage to the getaway car or the sheer ineptitude of law enforcement might give pause to anyone who needs reality to be part of their cinematic experience. Pork Pie is meant to be a joy ride for audiences to enjoy in watching the development of these interesting characters and the hope that they reach their ultimate goal at the end of the journey.