Gary of the Pacific is a movie that exists on island time.
A humble and chilled out comedy.
This is a New Zealand movie written and directed by The Downlow Concept, a group of comedians who are responsible for some of the best comedy in the country, including 7 Days and The Critic and the Pig. This is their first feature film.
2017’s Gary of the Pacific tells the story of Gary. He’s the son of the chief of a South Pacific island. We start with young Gary on the island, being sent off to the “mainland” (New Zealand) to get an education make his fortune. But things don’t go as well as expected for the son of the chief — he doesn’t grow up to become a doctor or a millionaire, but rather a middling real estate agent.
Note: the only thing that stretches reality in this movie is the idea of an unsuccessful real estate agent in Auckland.
He ends up with an American girlfriend named Chloe (on the advice of his father, he found a foreign gal) and lives a less-than-exciting life. He’s behind on mortgage payments and Chloe will only marry him if he gives her the perfect wedding, “like Monica on Friends”.
But when his father dies and names Gary as the chief of the island, Gary has to step up and grow up.
This movie is really the Josh Thomson show. He plays Gary, and is in nearly every scene. Indeed, nearly every shot. And he’s great. Funny, but also believable. Maybe because I know blokes like that, but the character rang true. Something about Thomson is innately watchable, and he’s great at playing an insecure person hiding behind bravado.
Chloe I didn’t like, which was the idea of course — she doesn’t have one redeeming quality. It would have been nice to see her as less of a stone cold horrible person, and more as someone who was wooed by the idea of island life but didn’t fit into the culture. But it’s also a 86 minute broad comedy so a couple of shortcuts are fine.
And if you’re even casually familiar with the local New Zealand comedy scene, there are plenty of cameos. From That Guy himself Leigh Hart to not-famous-enough Sanjay Patel.
I did find the music a little on the nose — too “kooky” for a kooky movie like this, it meant that the awkward comedy didn’t always sit as long as it could have.
Typical of the 7 Days crew, the comedy excels when it’s around the collision of “high” and “low” culture (for want of better terms). Chloe wants doves at her wedding, but the island only had chickens. There’s a band playing Here Comes the Bride, but it’s two local fellas wailing away on electric guitars (awesomely by the way). The dialogue is snappy and plays on those ideas — Gary trying to impress the folks back on the island with tales of ritzy New Zealand.
Like Gary himself, Gary of the Pacific is a movie without lofty ambitions. It aims to entertain for an hour and a half or so and deliver a laugh out loud or ten. In that regard, Gary of the Pacific is a resounding success.