seems sometimes that there is an entire sub-genre of indie films about
growing up poor, artistic and sensitive in Brooklyn in the 70s or 80s.
There tends to be similar problems in most of them – the hero is being held
back by loser friends, lowered expectations, local crime, domestic violence
and lack of confidence. However they usually find the courage to break free
from their little world through the love of a good woman and the violent
death of a friend or close relative.
all goes back to the template of Saturday Night Fever, which was
really Brooklyn in the 70s. It’s easy to forget that at the time that
was simply a small-budgeted film which happened to eventually become a smash
success. Filmmakers have gone back to the well many times since then, and
while none of the films has ever outshone Fever, there have been some
rather good ones.
White Irish Drinkers
is better than some of
these films, worse than others. However, there is very little here that
really feels new or fresh.
again, even if it is a bit predictable story-wise, the movie is rather
well-written and has such an accurate view of the world that it inhabits
that its sometimes worn story threads look stronger.
White Irish Drinkers
is a labor of love from
John Gray – best known as the creator and a main writer of the long-running
television series Ghost Whisperer. And White Irish has both
the good and bad tendencies of his series – it is often very well-written,
humorous and well acted, but it can also be a bit overwrought and simplistic
White Irish Drinkers
has a good cast of mostly
little-known actors. Along with the unknown young cast, a few minor celebs
play elders in the cast, including Avatar’s Stephen Lang and the
semi-reunion of Karen Allen and Peter Riegert. (Katie and Boon from
National Lampoon’s Animal House are finally together again!
Unfortunately they do not get any scenes together.)
the title suggests, this movie looks at a group of kids in the Irish
neighborhood of Bay Ridge, who are now out of high school and scrambling to
figure out what to do with their life.
hero is Brian Leary (Nick Thurston), an aspiring artist who is embarrassed
by his aspirations – he literally hides his painting from his family – but
who isn’t ashamed to use the talent to try to pick up girls.
has a bunch of friends, one who is going off to college, one who is trying
to become a civil servant (read: trash collector) and others who don’t know
for sure what they want.
Brian works part-time at a financially ailing local theater, where he has
befriended the owner (Peter Riegert) and talked him into trying to turn the
place into a concert venue.
has finally worked up the nerve to talk to the girl he has had a crush on
through school (Leslie Murphy) – right before she is set to move to
Brian’s older brother Danny (Geoff Wigdor) is a petty thief always looking
for his big score. Danny keeps trying to get his little brother to join in
his little schemes, but Brian doesn’t have the knack for crime.
the meantime, Brian tries to hide from his home as much as possible, as his
alcoholic dad (Stephen Lang) tends to beat him, his brother and his
downtrodden mother (Karen Allen).
one rather unique touch of the film is almost treated as garnish: it is
barely touched upon through most of the story until the very end. That plot
point – the intended to be rather too-good-to-be-true idea that the Rolling
Stones at the height of their popularity would agree to do a secret one
hour-show at an old run-down Brooklyn theater – is an interesting device and
yet in the long run there is nowhere to take it. Either the concert happens
and the film has to avoid actually showing it – the music budget here
obviously couldn’t afford the Stones – or it will end up being all be a
scam. Either way, the clever idea will just sort of peter out, story-wise.
However, even if that plot line doesn’t exactly pay off, it is welcome
because it is the one place that the movie totally divorces itself from the
formula. Still, even if you have seen much of this before, it is done with
a sensitive eye and a sure touch.
one time that the film is truly off-the-mark is unfortunately in the film’s
climax, in which the lead character does something that is so out of
character that it is actually jarring. I understand that was the point that
Gray was trying to make – that he was growing and changing – but it still
falls very flat.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com.
All rights reserved. Posted: March 4, 2011.