Vancouver Just For Laughs Film Festival: ‘Pork Pie’ is a fun romp through the country

A man pulls into a service station because he’s having engine trouble. He parks the car, walks into the shop, and asks the man behind the counter if the car can be looked at because he thinks the engine is overheating. As he’s saying this, the engine explodes in the background. We’ve all had bad days, but this guy is having a really bad day, week, and present in general.

This is Jon, a man who is presently a wreck, distraught over losing his fiancĂ©e. He doesn’t know how to do it, but he needs to get her back, and so commences a road trip during which he will find himself.

If this is all sounding familiar, well, it is a bit familiar. Lovable screwup goes on a road trip with interesting misfits and figures out how to be slightly less of a screwup is not a new story by any stretch, but beautiful locations, a thrilling car chase, and a strong central performance make Pork Pie definitely worth your time.

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Jon is joined on his road trip of self-discovery by two other characters: Luke, the expert driver who is on the run from a gang of thugs, and Keira, an animal rights activist whom they pick up as she’s being fired from her job at a fast-food joint basically because she’s an animal rights activist but also because she’s terrible to every customer. Maybe more the latter.

It’s Jon’s movie, though, and Dean O’Gorman (of The Hobbit Trilogy) plays him with just enough charisma to be believable that he’s ended up on this adventure, but also just enough self-loathing that when you find out how and why he didn’t just screw up but screwed things up, it all makes sense.

This is another movie that bounces between a few genres, a comedy, a car chase, and a story of a man at least starting to own who he is, and while the front half and the back half of the story feel pretty different, the balance mostly works.

I can’t lie, though; there are some choices toward the end that I’m not fully on board with, mainly in that the movie seems to want to absolve Jon in a way that I’m not sure he really earns through the story, but O’Gorman is so charming that even in those moments he sells it.

The movie begins and ends with a car on fire, each one an apt visual metaphor for Jon’s place in life. The story that gets him from the first fire to the last one doesn’t bring much new stuff to the table, but O’Gorman is great, the rest of the cast is having fun, and you get to see a ton of gorgeous New Zealand landscapes. It’s a fine way to spend your time.