Taika Waititi did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Alamein aka "Shogun" in Boy.
Boy I suppose wasn't quite a surprise in its balance of being both heartwarming and gut busting based upon Taika Waititi's later work as a director in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. What was perhaps a bit more of a surprise though was how this also translates to his work as an actor. Waititi in addition to directing the film plays the boy's father Alamein, which is also the boy's real name. In the opening of the film he is in jail where the boy imagines him as some sort hero even at times when he admits he's in jail. Waititi gives us glimpses of Alamein in fantastical visions of the man which grant us some great physical comedy from Waititi. These are perhaps the most purely comic moments in Waititi's work given he is basically being a human cartoon in them. Each one is a splendid piece of ridiculousness from Waititi. Whether it is performing a Maori dance by way of Michael Jackson's thriller, engaging in a dramatic fight with a gang of bikers, or even escaping prison like ninja by throwing dirt as if it was a ninja star, Waititi is highly entertaining. He properly gives a portrayal that is a little too much in that it so clearly a false image of almost this superhuman hero rather than an actual man. Waititi properly invents the hero for a child's dream being oh so endearing, and easy to be proud of, while being quite funny to us by just how absurd these images are.
We meet Alamein in the flesh a bit later as he surprisingly comes with his friends to visit the boy's home. The boy takes it as Alamein wanting to get to know him and his little brother Rocky. Waititi is brilliant in many ways here in the way he portrays the part of Alamein, or as he prefers to be called Shogun, but I'll still keep calling him Alamein. On one front Waititi does make Alamein a likable charming guy on the surface. He brings certainly an energetic spirit to the role, though carefully downplays this in comparison to those scenes of the fantasy. Waititi creates a more natural charm in these scenes fitting to the type of man Alamein is. Now in this Waititi creates these layers, that are not of facades but rather how this behavior can be seen and interpreted depending on who is watching him. At the most surface point this is just an entertaining performance to watch as Waiti has such a considerable comedic skill. This is in flawless delivery when humor is already within the line though Waiti has a particular great skill of even making technically mundane lines hilarious through unique approach as a performer as well as his perfect timing. Waititi makes this an inherent element within Alamein's charm that makes the initial view of him believable, and even what perhaps the boy's deceased mother had seen in him.
Waititi keeps in mind just how unprepared the man is to be a father, and that earnestness in much of his behavior is never wholly false even if somewhat deceiving. He's often having fun with the kids as though they are just his friends, as Waititi conveys the way the guy can't get his head around being a proper paternal figure to the boys. Waititi finds the complication of this in such authentic fashion. Throughout the film as his behavior becomes worse Waititi shows what happens when such behavior is basically forced to directly deal with reality. Waititi is actually most unsettling when this happens as we see the man acting as a boy in a less positive light, and it isn't easy to watch. Waititi doesn't hold back in this particularly in one scene where he suspects his son has taken his money. Waititi delivers in bringing a downright scary side to Alamein, that feels entirely cohesive to the rest of the character due to Waititi's deft handle on the role. Waititi brutally shows the truth of what happens to the "fun dad" when there is no fun to be had, and his childishness comes into conflict with his kids. When he yells at the boy Waititi shows the very real danger of the man living as the boy.
Again though Waititi carefully does not simplify this to suddenly make Alamein a terrible person, even though he is, in every single scene. Waititi is actually quite moving in the scene right afterwards in portraying so sincerely his attempt at apology, though still recognizing the problem in this since even the apology doesn't fully recognize the nature of his action. In this though Waititi finds a melancholy around the character as exudes the challenge of the man to connect with them in someway he understands, as well as deal with the loss of his wife. There are times in the fun moments there is a genuine warmth that Waititi brings showing Alamein trying to be an actual father to them. Waititi makes these moments properly awkward though genuine. These moments though he makes that somberness the most palatable suggesting that when he acts as the dad remembering the loss of his wife weighs most strongly on his mind. Waititi is downright heartbreaking in his portrayal of the particularly in the final pseudo reconciliation with his sons at the grave of his wife. I'll admit I was a bit surprised by just how well Waiti proves himself as able as an actor as he is a director in terms of so delicately and effectively balancing these tones. I loved this performance as Waititi within his portrayal is ridiculous, moving, horrible, likable, and funny all in his singular complex realization of the mess of a man Alamein is.