20 Mar 2019

Review - Hang Time: a sunny, funny and deftly made Kiwi film

From At The Movies, 7:33 pm on 20 March 2019

Harry, a twenty-something accountant is heartbroken after being dumped by his fiancée but fortunately, his BFF Ants is around and his other friend Jess is working at a vineyard...

Simon Morris checks out Hang Time – a local movie about love, laughs, wine and social media. 

  • Hang Time director Casey Zilbert talks to RNZ: "How do we make a film that Kiwis laugh their asses off all the way through and leave and go, I need to call my best mate?"

Simon Morris: I sympathise with any New Zealand films trying to get noticed in the current, extremely competitive climate.

They're chasing publicity on a fraction of the marketing budget of most overseas films. They're also competing with TV, Netflix – and each other.

There are enough resources to really get behind just one or two New Zealand films a year – and this year that's the high-profile musical Daffodils rather than a film like the little independent Hang Time.

So Hang Time's strategy is to take it from place to place, an old-fashioned roadshow.

But while admirably cost-effective, this approach is not much help for the rest of us who might feel like seeing it.

This is exactly the sort of film that would benefit from being picked up by Netflix.

The story of Hang Time is simple – deceptively so, because director Casey Zilbert has apparently built her buddy comedy around Ernest Hemingway's rather more serious novel The Sun Also Rises.

Anyway, our hero, accountant Harry, gets dumped by his fiancée for reasons that are a little opaque. He was too awesome or something. Fortunately, his BFF Ants is there to pick up the slack.

There's a lot of 20-something bonding, relating and social-media-ing in Hang Time – not that there's anything wrong with that.

Anyone who is – or who's ever been – about 23 will relate to Ants, Harry and their friends, sisters Jess and Bella.

Jess is working at the vineyard owned by her Auntie Lynn and Uncle Chris – played by the real-life Lynn and Chris who I assume donated the location in return for co-producer credit.

At the last minute, who should arrive but the enigmatic American uncle of Harry's ex-bride to be.

And, once again displaying cunning budgetary nous, Uncle Jake is played by Steve Barr, the film's actual producer.

The quintet bonds over wine  – a subject that writer-director Casey Zilbert is clearly knowledgeable and enthusiastic about. Is it a metaphor? Probably.

The good news is that Hang Time looks several million bucks – not just the camera work but the smart, imaginative editing. It's sunny, intelligent, with generally convincing characters.

Having set up the small cast, Casey Zilbert belatedly works to give each of the characters some dimension, dishing out back-stories as she goes.

But often a wee bit clumsily. Stopping the action so that someone can tell their story only really works in a musical.

And while music plays a strong role in Hang Time, it's not that sort of musical.

Mostly there's a lot of talk, which would be fine if there was something underpinning it. You know, like a plot.

In Hang Time, nobody seems to have much at stake, other than getting past one hangover to make room for another one.

Of course, I appreciate many 20-year-olds can relate to this activity. But a movie needs a little more to drive it than simple credibility. Maybe they should have taken a tip from Hemingway and put a bullfight in there somewhere.

Still, Hang Time is sunny, funny and deftly made. Borrow a 20-year-old and pop along if you get the chance. And yes, a glass of wine will help.

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