White Irish Drinkers: big whiny babies

1 Nov

Writer/Director John Gray (creator of The Ghost Whisperer) used his own $600,000, proceeds from the show, to make his independent film. The film, set in 1970s Brooklyn, follows two brothers, Danny, older, criminal, doomed (Geoffrey Wigdor) and Brian (Nick Thurston), younger, artistic, idealistic as they make a pact to rob the local theater Brian works for on the night of a Rolling Stones concert. This is not a caper movie so if that’s what you are expecting, you will never get the payoff. This is the movie about two brothers who are on different paths and stay on different paths.

SPOILER ALERT

Within the first ten minutes of the movie, I already knew what was going to happen. Danny was going to stay a criminal, try to do something decent in the end and then get killed, dying as a redeemed martyr. Brian was going to shun the life of crime Danny was trying to lead him into and follow his path as an artist, getting the girl and escaping his working class Brooklyn neighborhood. And that’s exactly what happens. I’m always sorely disappointed when I can predict the plot of a movie.  That said, I actually watched the whole thing.  This is one of those moments that had I gone into a movie theater and spent $13, I would have been angry.  This was simply one of my Netflix streaming choices.  For my monthly Netflix fee, I wasn’t actually disappointed.  I was even willing to give it three stars.

If you are curious about what it was like to live in a blue collar family (with an alcoholic abusive father) in the 1970s, and you want to see the career choices regular people made back then when there was still job security and things like benefits for most people, then this is the movie to watch.  This film is a glimpse into the insular working class world of the 1970s.  It’s also tragic in a way, to see how the two characters who are so excited they have jobs as a transit authority worker and a garbage man are making fun of their friend who goes to college and majors in “computers” since there is no future in that, according to them.  What most viewers probably won’t realize is that the mindset of a civil service job with benefits was a solid goal for people who only had their high school diplomas and back then, not everyone was expected to go to college.  In fact, trade schools made more sense to them.  All of that goes back to the way things worked in America for a very long time.  Really, since the 1940s.  So if nothing else, I’d argue this film is a solid look at a social class and the last decade or so it would exist in its safe benefits-filled and lifetime job security bliss.  Because by the end of the 1980s and into the early 1990s, job security was a thing of the past.

My strongest criticism of the characters are that they do not actually grow.  They stay the same.  And while I didn’t like watching that, I will be the first one to admit, that actually is a reflection of real life.  Most people don’t grow.  They stay the same for their entire lives.  But I already knew that.  I don’t necessarily want to watch a movie about average ordinary people.  Because even Brian with his artistic gift, still somehow feels average and ordinary.  And I guess, my biggest issue with the film is that I don’t want to watch average and ordinary.  I can see that when I walk outside every day.

4 Responses to “White Irish Drinkers: big whiny babies”

  1. Melissa Jo Peltier (@MelissaJPeltier) November 1, 2011 at 9:52 pm #

    From the title of this review, I was planning to read a typical highbrow critic’s slam of our little labor of love film and get really pissed off. Actually, I think it’s an excellent and totally fair review. You did a fine job unpacking one of White Irish Drinker’s strongest points – it’s detailed depiction of a time, place, and way of life that is no more. (It is a very autobiographical story for writer/director John Gray, one he felt driven to tell for many years.) You are also an excellent writer. I was happily surprised. Even a lukewarm – or even bad – review is appreciated if it is fair, considered, and its points well-defended, and you did all that with style and grace. I think you’ll be a reviewer that I’ll follow from now on.

    • romistepovich November 1, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

      Although I might rip some things apart, believe me, I try to be fair. And what I thought was so well done about this film is that attitude from the 1970s. And since my family could certainly be considered working class, I can’t tell you how many times I still get lectures from family members about finding jobs that have benefits and guaranteed employment, so watching those characters certainly resonated with me. What made me so uneasy, but this is actually a compliment, is that most of the characters do not grow. And I wanted them to grow. But that’s an accurate depiction of the real world and it is clear that’s what the film is striving for. So it’s really more that this film is not about escapism, it’s about reflection and reality when people can’t realize they could change if they could see a bigger picture. And that’s actually a good thing. I think I was just a bit mislead about the tagline which made it seem far more noirish. And, the one thing I didn’t see was the payoff about the Stones concert. (Spoiler Alert). I actually believed it would happen!

      • Melissa Jo Peltier (@MelissaJPeltier) November 2, 2011 at 5:24 am #

        Thanks, Romi…I don’t think I’ve spoken to anyone yet who saw the ultimate concert/money twist coming! Your observations are fair, well-said and have a lot of value. Good criticism like yours makes a filmmaker/artist/writer/director grow because it makes him or her think and look at things through another artist’s eyes, without getting defensive. Personally I think Brian does grow in the film – what he does in his “goodbye scene” with his Dad proves that…but certainly Paddy and Margaret do not. Margaret maybe a little, in realizing that sometimes the most unselfish thing you can do for your kids is to stop coddling them and let them leave the nest. Definitely NOT a noir film, that’s for sure! Not everybody’s cup of tea – some, like you, thought elements were predictable, others didn’t – but I do know we’ve moved a lot of audiences, and certain people really feel the emotional power of the film so deeply they become devoted to it. It’s good you got the working class stuff on a personal level; like I said, I think that’s one of it’s strong points. On $600,000 and in 17 days, you can’t get everything right, but we were blessed with an astounding (and totally dedicated) cast, a passionate crew and a director with a clear vision. Anyway, I like your reviews and am happy I found your site!

  2. Melissa Jo Peltier (@MelissaJPeltier) November 2, 2011 at 5:26 am #

    P.S…I am a HUGE film noir nut myself!

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