Naming Number Two peddles familial reconciliation while making one pine for familial annihilation. Writer-director Toa Fraser’s tale, based on his 2000 play, may be highly personal, but it’s still corniness incarnate, detailing the reunion of a fractured Fijian-New Zealand clan with an amateurish brew of spiritual songs, slow motion, and characters whose personality traits are uniformly insufferable. This last component most readily applies to Nanna (Ruby Dee), the wacko matriarch who spontaneously decides, over long evening puffs of her cigarette, to demand that a pig-roasting feast be organized for the next day, with only her grandchildren—and not her squabbling children—invited to attend. That everyone bends over backward fulfilling granny’s rude, bossy, unreasonable demands is enough to make one’s chest swell with loathing, though there’s even more to dislike once the detestable senior citizen begins pining for the good ol’ days when men worked and women cooked. Though no outsiders are allowed, often-shirtless hunk Tyson (Xavier Horan) nonetheless brings his latest bimbo, Maria (Tuva Novotny), to the gathering, where she’s inexplicably embraced by Nanna and—over gulps of alcoholic grog—given the nickname “Crazy Horse.” This development makes little sense, but then aside from obviousness, inscrutability is the primary thing peddled by Naming Number Two, which also offers up Nanna’s confounding efforts to name a successor—apparently to her crummy little house, as well as to the unofficial title of clan leader—and a random subplot involving a long-locked door that traps evil spirits. “This place is boring as hell,” gripes Nanna before commanding her relatives-cum-slaves to stage the party, a situation that doesn’t change until the final shot, in which Fraser finally discovers a touching way to convey the pull that family homes—as well as memories of happier times now past—have over our hearts. One tender climactic grace note, however, won’t prevent this otherwise cringe-inducing film from enjoying a long, deserved life in obscurity.
- Cyan Pictures
- 96 min
- Toa Fraser
- Toa Fraser
- Ruby Dee, Mia Blake, Rene Naufahu, Miriama McDowell, Taungaroa Emile, Xavier Horan, Tuva Novotny, Antony Starr, Tanea Heke, Nathaniel Lees, Pio Terei
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