Directed by Brendan Donovan
Written by Brendan Donovan and David Brechin-Smith
Howick teenager Mark is a champion go-karter, with pipsqueak younger brother Ed hot on his tail. Enthusiastic dad Gazza is their coach, mechanic, bankroll and support team, and determined that Mark’s talent should get him on the track to formula one racing in Europe.
But when tragedy strikes the Snell family, their united front crumbles. Drifting apart in a string of blame, misunderstandings, and mishandled situations, everyone has something to hide.
I still feel guilty for not supporting The Hopes & Dreams of Gazza Snell during its cinema run, but that says something in itself: watching a petrol-fuelled melodrama just did not appeal to me, even if it was local product. When the DVD was released, my homework was set, and I was relieved to find things to enjoy.
Donovan’s debut feature was filmed in East Auckland, and as a slice of Howick life it succeeds admirably: the landmarks, stereotypes and humour are all true to form, and probably the most appealing thing about the film. The supporting cast have some excellent material to work with, and if the subplots are a little unfocussed, it is only because the film is rich with detail and trying to say too much.
The first-time actors and real-life brothers playing the Snell boys are both fantastic, although given their extreme dissimilarity to their screen parents I was wondering if an adoption subplot would unwind. Joel Tobeck deftly walks the fine line between hero and villain as a trusted family friend, and Robyn Malcolm gives her all as the long suffering Gail, at the end of her tether with irresponsible Gazza.
Which is where it all falls down. As far as problems go, an unlikeable title character trumps all. Gazza is a dreamer, an adult who needs to grow up and address what his hopes and dreams should really be – but instead of roguish and blokey, he comes across selfish, boorish, and destructive. The antics which I assume were meant to provoke a laugh of recognition instead had me hoping Gazza would lose everything, just to serve him right.
The Hopes & Dreams of Gazza Snell has largely been an audience pleaser, to those who have made the effort to see it, and any Kiwi looking for their stories on the big screen will find something worth watching. Donovan has a unique voice, as proven with his two Insider’s Guide television series, and although he hasn’t quite hit the mark here I will be looking out for his next film.
Keen on cars? Try a modern Kiwi classic - Florian Habicht’s acclaimed feature length documentary Kaikohe Demolition follows colourful local characters through a year’s demolition derbies in the far north. It’s packed with flavour, humour and car wrecks, and full of cheeky charm.