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PopEntertainment.com > Reviews > Movie Reviews > White Irish Drinkers

MOVIE REVIEWS

WHITE IRISH DRINKERS (2011)

Starring Nick Thurston, Geoff Wigdor, Karen Allen, Stephen Lang, Peter Riegert, Leslie Murphy, Zachary Booth, Ken Jennings, Regan Mizrahi, Anthony Amorim and Jackie Martling.

Screenplay by John Gray.

Directed by John Gray.

Distributed by Screen Media Films.  109 minutes.  Rated R.

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White Irish Drinkers

It 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. 

It 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. 

Then 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 emotionally. 

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.) 

As 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. 

The 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. 

He 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. 

He 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 California. 

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. 

In 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). 

The 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. 

The 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.

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Copyright ©2011 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: March 4, 2011.