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This angst-filled tale of three Irish-Catholic brothers explores men's relationships with women. Three different situations are set up on parallel plotlines, with each brother facing a different kind of crisis. Their common bond as family, as well as close lifelong friends, allows them to express their feelings frankly and intimately, as they talk and discuss their concerns among each other. Jack finds himself in a marriage gone stale and under pressure to start a family that he does not yet feel ready for. Barry, dedicated to his film career and almost pathologically averse to any type of commitment in a relationship, is suddenly artistically successful and finds true love, both for the first time and both pulling him in opposite directions. Patrick is torn between his love for his religion and ethnic heritage and his love for Susan, his longtime Jewish girlfriend. Ultimately, they are all asked to resist temptation of one sort or another, with various poignant outcomes. Written by
Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>
I am a man who is of Irish decent, has an older brother who I am still close with but used to fight with (physically) constantly, and grew up in the Northeast, so I felt more of a familiarity towards this film than people in other demographics. For those reasons alone, this film holds a special place in my movie-loving heart than others I have seen before.
Having said that, you don't have to be Irish-American or even male to love this movie. Sure, it looks grainy even on DVD, but any movie fan can tell you that it's not how clear a movie is or how much it costs, but how good the characters are or the story is. For this movie, both criteria was met.
Edwards Burns wrote this film brilliantly, for starters. Burns wrote himself as the funnyman, and he did a great job with that role. He has some very memorable lines, most especially the part where he's talking to his younger brother Patrick (Mike McGlone) about women's ways while using a banana. Other writers would have stooped really low with such a prop, but Burns used it metaphorically in a way that was both funny and smart. He also had great chemistry with Maxine Bahns. Of course, Burns didn't leave all the funny lines to himself.
Mike McGlone is also very good as Patrick, the younger brother who uses his Catholic upbringing as an excuse not to marry his longtime girlfriend. His character is perhaps the most interesting because he's so complex and has many contradictory qualities: he loves but is afraid to commit, he's religious but abides by the rules when convenient, and he's smart but does really dumb things. Contrast that performance to his role in Burns' followup, "She's The One", and you'll see that McGlone is one of the most underrated actors working today.
Of course, with the movie centering around the three brothers, not mentioning Jack Mulcahy as older brother Jack would be blasphemous. Mulcahy played a very good straight man to Burns and McGlone. The movie makes you believe in the beginning that he has everything together, but he eventually loses it. However, he does so in an understated way that seems very realistic in a lot of ways. You'd have to see the movie to find out.
There's not too much else to say about the movie: it just worked! The dialogue was brilliantly written and perfectly executed by the entire cast, the situations were entirely believable, and the on-location shooting in New York was a brilliant move on Burns' part. It's as if New York was its own character. Being from New England, seeing the New York Yankees clothing some of the cast wore got under my skin a little, but I won't get too picky.
Although Edward Burns got his due for this movie (Winner of Best Picture at Sundance, Two Thumbs Up from Siskel & Ebert), he hasn't really gotten the respect he deserves since this film was made. He's directed eight movies as of the date this review has been written, and my guess is that in another ten years, he will earn the same respect as Woody Allen and Albert Brooks from film critics and fans alike. He had a great start as a young independent filmmaker, and I know he'll make more good films as a director as well.
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