Tuesday 3 October 2023

Uproar: Movie Review

Uproar: Movie Review 

Cast: Julian Dennison, Rhys Darby, Minnie Driver, Erana James, James Rolleston
Director: Paul Middleditch & Hamish Bennett

For a film that's so focussed on finding its lead character's voice against the backdrop of the 1981 Springbok tour riots, it's a surprise to say Uproar takes so long to find its own.
Uproar: Movie Review

Set in Dunedin in 1981, Julian Dennison stars as 17-year-old Josh Waaka, the only Maori kid in an all-white, rugby-obsessed school. Preferring to spend days hidden in the library away from mockery and abuse, Waaka's world comes alive when he's inadvertently thrust into the possibility of acting (as instigated by Darby's Brother Madigan) and the spotlight of activism as he begins an awakening.

Middleditch and Bennett make good fist of the Dunedin setting and evocatively recall the era where Aotearoa faced its own schism.

But by linking Waaka's awakening and unhappiness to the tumult of the nationwide plight, they squander some of the potentially better character-led moments that could have helped Uproar soar - despite its inevitable predictability. Moments of humour sit neatly beside other heartwarming segments and both Dennison and Darby shine where undercooked elements nearly threaten to fail them.

For a message of non-conformity, Uproar doesn't quite seem to have the power of its own voice when it counts - despite its leads.
Uproar: Movie Review

Over-egging scenes of protest with slow-mo shots and overplaying the sequences leave Uproar feeling like it's all been done before - and while the Maori heritage message is an important one, it feels hamstrung by its execution rather than its intention.
Ultimately Uproar doesn't quite produce the passionate coming-of-age tale you'd expect, but as a warming piece of crowd-pleasing fare it hits some of the spots well and will leave audiences impressed once again by Dennison's continually burgeoning talents.

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