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Friday, April 22, 2011
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White Irish Drinkers
Brothers In Drunken, Abusive Arms
Geoff Wigdor as Danny and Nick Thurston as Brian in "White Irish Drinkers", written and directed by John Gray. Screen Media Films
by Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com FOLLOW
Friday, April 22, 2011
Brooklyn, 1975. There was the "Rocky Horror Picture Show", The Rolling Stones and the troubled family whose abusive father reigned supreme over one of two brothers. This is "White Irish Drinkers", an odd title for a drama that has something to do with drinking but also seems to reinforce a stereotype. Indeed, John Gray's film makes clear that alcohol is to blame for the violence passed from generation to generation, but does little else to distinguish itself as a worthwhile theatrical experience.
"White Irish Drinkers" features Brian (Nick Thurston) and Danny (Greg Wigdor) as brothers with divergent paths: Brian is an illustrator and sketch artist who doesn't utilize his full potential. Static, he is content to work as a movie usher at a local theater. He tries to capture the attention of the young woman he couldn't as a high school lad. Danny is a ne'er do well, the older criminal-minded brother. Danny is forever beaten by his father (Stephen Lang), who finds the smallest thing to beat him up over, in between bouts of heavy drinking. The family's frightened (and likely abused) enabler wife (Karen Allen) stands mute as these routine beatings occur.
Let's cut to the chase: the film's big problem is its clichés, which beat the audience senseless. Everything that's "supposed" to happen to this fractured family -- at least in conventional movie expectations -- does. There's the tragic downfall, the slob-like buddies who represent their neighborhood and keep it "real", the punch-line to a joke you can see coming a mile away; the inexplicable, poorly-written "wild woman" character who does things that don't fit the story except to demonstrate how so clearly out of place she is in it. In this case the "wild woman" is Shauna (Leslie Murphy), a character without definition, scope or sense of reality. The problem isn't that Shauna is wild, but that she's wild without context, lost in this testosterone-laden mess.
"White Irish Drinkers" is unfocused. Scattershot, it takes on too many things at once, throwing each haphazardly-devised scenario at the audience in an attempt to round out the film as a credible, substantive story. We are supposed to understand that the DNA of Brian's experiences are justified and merited by what we see on the screen. This fallacy is undone by what we do see, which lacks meaningful impact. Mr. Gray's film tries to be crime story, family biography, juvenile comedy, romance, neighborhood study and coming-of-age drama -- but none of these endeavors feels real. Consequently, "White Irish Drinkers" alienates more than it entertains.
You feel as though you are watching a fantasy about working-class Irish-Americans, a grand soap opera, lazily engineered and without a sense of conviction. Mr. Gray, who also wrote the film, supposedly drew on his own personal experiences, but "White Irish Drinkers" feels distant, meandering and very impersonal. The film needed effective editing and a chance to let key characters breathe more and be truly heard instead of truncated.
There are elements here that with a better script and stronger cast could have been fleshed out more deliberately. The neighborhood fabric isn't as tight as it should be. The intimacy of the film -- its language, its mood, its localilty -- is stunted by the multiple story episodes and flashbacks that feel canned and unnecessary. At times you feel that Mr. Gray is working too hard to get his points across on the screen. "White Irish Drinkers" needed something more to arrest its audience. You feel removed as you watch almost all of the actors -- with the fine exceptions of Mr. Thurston and Ms. Allen -- go through the motions.
With: Peter Riegert, Zachary Booth, Robbie Collier Sublett, Michael Drayer, Henry Zebrowski, Ken Jennings, Jackie Martling.
"White Irish Drinkers" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America for pervasive language, some sexuality and violence. The film's running time is one hour and 49 minutes.
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