REVIEW

Baby Done is a fun New Zealand comedy full of cringeworthy awkwardness

Baby Done (M, 91 minutes)

4 stars

The name Taika Waititi in a set of film credits peaks my interest. Waititi went from quirky and charming low-budget filmmaking like Boy (2010), What We Do In The Shadows (2014) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016) to the absolute major leagues, directing Thor: Ragnorok in 2017 and a best adapted screenplay Oscar for JoJo Rabbit last year.

A scene from Baby Done. Picture: Supplied

A scene from Baby Done. Picture: Supplied

Baby Done might be one of those all-my-friends-are-having-babies comedies aimed at the late 20-somethings and early 30-somethings.

But with Taika Waititi as executive producer, you know this comedy will have more bite than a vampire, and more quirk than a Wilderperson.

And it does.

Rose Matafeo is Zoe, a free-spirited and adventurous Aucklander, and as the film begins, she is at a friend's baby gender reveal party with her partner Tim (Matthew Lewis) and her best friend Molly (Emily Barclay).

Molly and Zoe are disgusted with the smugness of all their once hard-partying friends who now either have babies, or babies on the way.

"Married, House, Baby, Done!" exclaims Zoe, ticking off the achievements of all of her friends, and even though she says she wouldn't mind having a baby, she just doesn't want to become a mum.

"When are you two going to have a baby?" her expecting friend asks, and Zoe and Tim respond by pretending to make an attempt at pregnancy right there at the backyard barbecue.

Pilfering a pregnancy test from the bathroom at the party, Zoe has her smug anti-parenthood attitude challenged when she discovers she is pregnant.

Initially, she's furious at the impact on her adventurous ways. She and Tim happen to be on an adventure weekend in Rotorua. She has just qualified for the World Tree Climbing championships, but Tim announces her pregnancy to the bungee-jump operator and ruins her fun.

But Zoe isn't as freshly pregnant as she initially thinks, and when a gynaecologist informs the pair they're coming close to their third trimester their relationship is suddenly and urgently tested.

Director Curtis Vowell has directed dozens of episodes of Shortland Street, some of the best training any film or television director can get, and I think hands-down the best soapie ever, despite my never having quite recovered from the death of Adam Rickett's Kieran Mitchell.

Vowell keeps the film's energy up throughout, and even though his real-life wife and screenwriter Sophie Henderson sends the story to some dark places in its last third, together they have crafted a dialogue-heavy comedy in the New Zealand style. And by that I mean full of cringe-worthy awkwardness Kiwis do better than anyone else.

It took me a minute or two into the film to realise that Tim is the grown-up Neville Longbottom, the other child that lived. What a handsome man Matthew Davis has become, and a solid actor.

Tim is a quiet and very normal character, allowing Matafeo the space she needs to give Zoe a raw and warm energy. You're drawn to her charm, her humour, you understand her darker impulses, and even though this is a comedy which necessarily means its characters made ridiculous choices, hers seem understandable.

Matafeo took home a prize from the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 for her show Horndog and her natural performing style works well.

The other characters each get their generous share of laughs, particularly friend Molly. Emily Barclay does an unnervingly familiar gig as that one friend we all have who's never moved on from Uni-era drinking and bad choices.

I worry I am still that person in my friendship group.

Aussie audiences will be familiar with Rachel House from Hunt for the Wilderpeople, and she steals her one scene here as a high school principal.

Kiwis, of whom there are more than enough locally to make the film a hit at the Aussie box office, will appreciate the supporting soundtrack of local legends like Connan Mockasin.

This story Kiwis face unexpected pregnancy first appeared on The Canberra Times.