The birding community is going to be very keen. – Brit Woman
Recently while stuck inside and looking for entertainment, I had the thought to watch that big mainstream birding movie that I never got around to seeing, The Big Year. But I found no trace of it on Netflix, and as usual gave up at the first sign of difficulty. Then I was struck by a thunderbolt of inspiration: Why not just search Netflix for the word “bird?”
By and large, the results had little to do with birding and were pretty unappealing. But one description caught my eye:
It turns out to be a bizarre Canadian farce about two middle-aged men in a remote seaside town. I call it Canadian because it’s set in Canada, was made by Canadians, and shows what I take to be a uniquely Canadian sensibility, in that it is kind of boring and makes absolutely no sense. No offense, Newfoundland, but Hollywood you are not.
Briefly, the premise is this. Our protagonist Dave (William Hurt) has a seaside restaurant that nobody eats at anymore, and a wife who has left him. His neighbor Phonce (short for Alphonce, played by Andy Jones) is the interesting one. Phonce is some sort of inventor or mechanic with a strange accent, who believes that corporate spies are after the submarine he’s built in his basement. Why build a submarine? To sell tours for birdwatchers, those “geezers” who spend their time looking for birds “they’re not even gonna eat.” Phonce is a consummate capitalist. In addition to the submarine, his home contains the following:
1. A slinky young sex kitten of a sister-in-law (Molly Parker), who’s in town for an extended visit.
2. A prototype of some sort of magical, luminescent paper. (“It actually breaks the energy equation,” he explains to a rapt Dave.)
3. A huge stash of cocaine that he found washed up on the beach.
Phonce would like Dave, who may have some contacts left from his “bohemian” days, to help him sell the coke. Dave takes a sample home, ostensibly to get it appraised, but it turns out Dave kinda likes cocaine, and it all goes up his nose. This has no apparent consequences for anyone.
More importantly, Phonce has a plan to breathe life into Dave’s restaurant. They’ll report a sighting of a rare bird nearby, and the geezers will pour in to see it. Once there, they’ll have to eat, right? Voilà!
And so it goes. Soon after they call in the fictional sighting to a popular radio program about bird identification (is this plausible in Canada?), the first birder arrives, a sweet, earnest British lady who appears to be about 90. Thank you for that, filmmakers. Many more soon follow, and they prove quite persistent in their search for the bird, despite the lack of any sighting by anyone who knows about birds. They search and they search, and they gobble up Dave’s cooking. Dave snorts coke and enjoys the company of the young beauty. Life is grand.
Of course, there are complications – but I’ll let you discover those for yourself, if this has managed to whet your appetite. If you’re a birder looking for a movie about birding, keep looking. Birders are as marginalized in this movie as they are in real life, and considerably dumber. But if you like rustic maritime scenery, un-relatable characters and nonsensical plotlines – or just want to see William Hurt’s butt – then by all means, toke up and settle in for some Rare Birds.