Neil Young’s Film Lounge – Pearls and Pigs

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

PEARLS AND PIGS

7/10

Helmia ja sikoja : Finland 2003 : Perttu LEPPA : 106-113 mins

from Joensuu with love... Pearls and PigsIt’s no exaggeration that Pearls and Pigs‘s UK premiere at the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival restored my faith in cinema. A faith that had taken quite a severe knock earlier that afternoon following the dire insect/incest farrago Red Cockroaches. I was sufficiently browned off to seriously consider swerving what the brochure unappetisingly billed as a Finnish satire of TV talent shows. And the early stretches had me contemplating an early exit: middling comic episodes introducing small-town (Joensuu) small-time crook Erkki Hirvonen (Perka Valkeejarvi), a single father who operates a bootlegging business with his four uncouth twentysomething sons. Namely good-looking nice-guy Lade (Mikko Leppilampi), amiably stoned Timo (Unto Helo), volatile tough-nut Ruho aka ‘Bulk’ (Timo Lavikainen) and nightclubbing gay hedonist Pujo aka ‘Boy’ (Jimi Paakallo).

After what seems like an age, the picture finally finds its feet when the hapless Erkki is jailed and the lads must produce a large amount of Euros to pay off ‘Pig’ and ‘Sty’ – local criminal bigwigs they’ve inadvertently offended. As if this wasn’t enough, the boys find themselves in a Three Men and a Little Lady type scenario when their blonde-moppet half-sister Saara (Amanda Pilke) is dumped on their doorstep by her hard-bitten prostitute mother (Outi Maenpaa). But when Saara reveals unsuspected talents as an angel-voiced singer, the brothers waste no time in entering her for the lucrative televised ‘Superkid’ contest. Complications ensue.

Despite that clumpingly slow start, Pearls and Pigs eventually establishes itself an enormously good-natured, big-hearted crowdpleaser – to Edinburgh 04 what Torremolinos 73 was to Edinburgh 03. Though one suspects that many of the references and gags aren’t just Finnish but specifically east Finnish, the picture as a whole is thoroughly accessible, unpretentious fun – mercifully unsentimental and, in its final twist, breezily allergic to conventional moralising.

Pin-up Lade may be a touch one-dimensional, and ‘Boy’ is conspicuously sidelined almost as much as his incarcerated dad, but Lavikainen’s (Johnny-Ramone-ish) ‘Bulk’ and Helo’s out-there Timo make for a most engaging double-act. By the end you’ll be thoroughly convinced by the quartet’s raucous fraternal bonds, despite their looking nothing like each other. Indeed, despite what occasionally feels like an overextended running time, you may even find you could quite happily spend another hour or two chez Hirvonen. Fun with Finns, as Basil Fawlty (nearly) put it.

14th September, 2004
(seen 28th August : UGC Edinburgh : public show – Edinburgh Film Festival)

click HERE for our full coverage of the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival

by Neil Young