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HBO Shark Attack Doc Is Admirably Restrained – The Hollywood Reporter



In case you ever had any doubt about how company mergers could make for unusual bedfellows — and it’s 2023, so you need to have gotten this memo way back — one want look no additional than After the Chunk, a documentary programmed to play like the reply to the commonly unasked query, “What would happen if Warner Bros. Discovery chief David Zaslav forced HBO to participate in Shark Week?”

Presumably, the artistic origins of Ivy Meeropol’s (Bully. Coward. Sufferer. The Story of Roy Cohn) movie and Discovery’s annual celebration of all issues toothy and ichthyological had been utterly separate. However following its preliminary airing on HBO, After the Chunk will migrate over to Max, the place it may be promoted subsequent to such Shark Week titles as Serial Killer Purple Sea Assaults, The Shark of the Ethical Universe Bends Towards Carnage and Nice White Battle Membership (solely two of these are actual).

After the Chunk

The Backside Line

Admirably un-sensationalistic.

Airdate: 10 p.m. Wednesday, July 26 (HBO)
Director: Ivy Meeropol

Discovery has mastered the artwork of the sensationalistic title and poster for its Shark Week programming, however a few of the lineup (not all, however some) within the fashionable block has substance. As would befit an HBO strategy to the topic, After the Chunk begins its story on the level of best sensationalism and, from there, goes quiet and pragmatic, eschewing high-pitched shrieking and chummed waters in favor of a extra ideologically different strategy. I don’t assume Meeropol’s formal selections all the time match the story she needs to seize, and After the Chunk runs out of power nicely earlier than the top of its 90-minute operating time. However I principally loved the thought of a extra muted model of Jaws that means that if we’ve got a recent shark assault downside, the answer goes to require greater than a much bigger boat.

Everyone in After the Chunk is, unavoidably, nicely conscious of Jaws. The outdated fishermen on the dive bar joke about it. The Wellfleet, Massachusetts, drive-in movie show is displaying it as a part of a summer season double-bill.

Tragically, the documentary’s focal space of Cape Cod continues to be residing within the aftermath of the lethal 2018 shark assault that killed Arthur Medici — nonetheless in search of solutions as to what occurred on that horrible September day and attempting to determine the mandatory steps to maintain it from ever occurring once more.

As Meeropol’s chosen title suggests, the documentary just isn’t about that one deadly assault. The day is remembered by a number of witness, however the documentary deftly avoids any predictable shock techniques. There aren’t any reenactments. The footage from that day is proscribed to snapshots taken on the seashore. The main target isn’t on visceral horror or visceral sentiment.

What Meeropol and so most of the documentary’s featured characters wish to do is take a step again to mirror, to keep away from rushes to judgment or motion — although the actions which can be taken each mirror and distinction with the methods by which the residents of Amity dealt with Steven Spielberg’s fictional shark assault. There are traces of native politics, however on this case it’s reasoned city corridor conferences with nary an oblivious, cold-hearted mayor in sight. There are scenes with biologists out on the water searching for sharks, however armed with tagging units as a substitute of weapons. When a lifeguard at a seashore spots what he thinks is a fin on the horizon and sounds an alarm, the exit from the water is calm and orderly and, moderately than panicking, folks stand on the shoreline filming the placid waters with their telephones.

After the Chunk is a sequence of snapshots or vignettes capturing a group and its responses as a substitute of a thriller or a piece of excessive drama. Elites fearful that the danger of sharks will destroy the vacationer economic system are matched with locals pondering declines within the industrial fishing economic system. Animal rights activists celebrating the return of each the sharks and seals — the sharks’ favourite prey — to an setting by which they’d seemingly been worn out are matched with advocates for amendments to the Marine Mammal Safety Act of 1972. And whereas these advocates insist that they’re not suggesting seals have to be killed off only a wee bit, they’re positively not not suggesting that. Most of the documentary’s arguments coalesce in a hard-to-dispute portrait of nature out of steadiness due to a mixture of local weather change and entrenched human behaviors.

The documentary is structurally free — a lot in order that it might be not possible to know when it was filmed if not for the proliferation of masks — however possibly might have stood to be even looser. It’s half a really conventional documentary with specialists and native speaking heads, and half a fly-on-the-wall vérité documentary.

Folks whose curiosity tends towards the previous might be pissed off by how Meeropol hovers on the skin of each argument, offering a number of nebulous context however by no means pushing politicians or scientists for concrete solutions or explanations. It’s a whole lot of half-arguments, reflective, I assume, of nature’s basic unknowability. These with a desire for one thing extra contemplatively formless will discover the accessible structuring to be obtrusive, with the moments of over-explaining and narrativizing rendering the snapshots virtually complicated. Why, for instance, in a documentary set largely in Provincetown is the one acknowledgment of the homosexual group a two-minute glimpse of a shark-heavy musical revue that’s formally and tonally unconnected to anything?

That indecisiveness rendered the doc’s lack of an actual ending unsatisfying for the a part of me searching for solutions and unconvincing for the a part of me craving one thing extra impressionistic. Nonetheless, being neither fish (honest apologies) nor fowl doesn’t imply that I didn’t take pleasure in After the Chunk as one thing of a Shark Week bait (extra apologies) and change. It’s a serious-minded documentary in a style that has strayed removed from something serious-minded.

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