IFFBoston: Eagle Vs. Shark
The pitch must have been easy for Eagle Vs. Shark. "Napoleon Dynamite has a crush!!" To be sure its oddity resembles Napoleon Dynamite. However, Eagle Vs. Shark makes most of its characters sympathetic, instead of just strange.
Eagle Vs. Shark is the story of Lily, who is in love with Jarrod. Though Lily is a bit awkward (she lives with her brother who does incredibly bad impressions), she is not nearly as odd as anything from Napoleon Dynamite. Where Dynamite centered on the oddballs in society (Napoleon, Kip), forcing us to oppose the norm (Summer Wheatly), Eagle keeps our point of view aligned with the norm (Lily), making us accept the oddball (Jarrod). This difference shows the difference in the directors' view of their characters. Jared Hess refuses to look at the world from Napoleon's perspective. He looks down on his characters, countering the viewer's supposed notions. Taika Cohen shows us the world as Lily sees it. He sees Lily as someone to be respected, and so we seek to understand why she loves Jarrod.
The surreal nature of Eagle Vs. Shark fits its subject matter better than Napoleon Dynamite. Eagle Vs. Shark is a story about love, that most irrational of emotions. And so many aspects of the film appear surreal. The oddities of the film make the emotions literal, bringing the irrational from the subjective view to the objective world.
Eagle Vs. Shark is not a perfect film. It sometimes goes for easy sentiment, but for the most part it's very well made. The pairing of Everything Will Be Okay with Eagle Vs. Shark, though it was the first pair of films I saw, ended up as one of the best pairs I saw in the whole festival.