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|Index||37 reviews in total|
* * * (3 out of 5)
The Brothers McMullen
Directed by: Edward Burns, 1995
Catholic guilt meets Irish-American post-grunge cynicism in this 1995 Grand Jury Prize winner of the Sundance festival. Ostensibly made by a man and for men (count the many beers) director/writer/actor Edward Burns nevertheless impresses in every category.
At times a bit sappy, yet Burns is focused on behavior and conversations and wisely makes the most of these.
'The Brothers McMullen', written, directed by and starring Edward Burns (on an extremely low-budget), invites us into the cosy relationship between three Irish-American brothers and their own relationships with God and members of the opposite sex. It is a conventional wisdom that a good story needs a beginning, a middle and an end, yet 'The Brothers McMullen' seems to be all middle - and engagingly so. Burns gives us a glimpse into the lives of these three brothers as they struggle to find their way through personal emotional turning points and re-evaluate their belief systems. The film is dominated by perceptive, sensitive and realistic dialogue throughout. The dilemmas of these three brothers are instantly recognisable to anyone in their twenties or thirties, their inner conflicts easy to identify with. This film is beautifully acted, and particularly likeable is Mike McGlone as the youngest brother who desperately tries to hold on to what he believes is his genuine Catholic conviction whilst searching for 'true love'. Burns' script is witty, warm, honest and wonderfully unpretentious. Burns himself turns in a great performance of the ever-maligned man who is 'afraid of commitment', yet somehow manages to remain intensely appealing and prevents his character from appearing to be a cliché. A rare gem among contemporary movies - one which is fuelled by words and not actions. Refreshing.
I think Edward Burns is a brilliant man - a genius. He has the ability to
make great, touching movies about REAL characters, and the humor is never
far away. This is a very funny movie, with some unforgettable scenes (e g:
see the "Summary"). The actors do their jobs with a presence rarely seen on
film. They never once overact, and everything they say or do seems
There is one major flaw in the movie though, but I'm not going to give it away. I can say this though: It has something to do with the time.
I saw this one after I saw "She's the One" and there are some similarities. However, this doesn't effect either movie in a negative way. In fact; I love both of them equally. I just wish I could get hold of "No Looking Back". It hasn't been released here in Sweden yet (not even on video).
Well... anyway, if you for some reason haven't seen "The Brothers McMullen" - or "She's the One" for that matter - I suggest you run the the nearest video store right now and rent it (preferably both), or better yet: buy them!
I just finished watching this on TV. The story is about several weeks
in the lives of three bothers. Circumstances (what they are is
unimportant) have caused the two younger bachelor brothers to move in
with their older married brother and his family. The script explores
the relationships between three loving Irish Catholic American
brothers, each with a distinctive personality, and the relationships
each has with the women in their lives. It's about real love and
romance (not the sappy romantic comedy type), fears of commitment, and
the twists and turns these men go through in dealing with that aspect
of their lives.
Their Catholicism has a lot to do with the story. At one point Patrick says to his Jewish girl friend, "I go to Church every week; you go to Temple only once or twice a year." She replies, "Yes, but your religion is crazy." Although the most religious of the three, Patrick, goes against the Church's teachings in that he uses condoms; but, he worries about going to Hell should he commit other serious sin.
Marriage to all of them means a life-long commitment. Their mother's life set the standard for them. She had lived 35 years in a forced, loveless marriage until her husband passed away. That freed her to go to the man she had been in love with when circumstances caused her to marry the boys' father. Abortion was out of the question, as was divorce.
Ed Burns is credited with writing and directing the film and he also is very credible as the middle brother. While the entire cast made their characters seem real, the actor who in my mind stood out is Mike McGlone, who plays Patrick, the youngest brother who has a kind of altar boy personality. Perhaps Ed Burns' choice of camera angles gets some of the credit for making his performance particularly memorable, but McGlone brought something special to that part.
I never saw "The Brothers McMullen" in the theater, but I just watched it on
video. I have to say that I liked it in spite of its flaws. It just had this
superficial, breezy feel to it, like it's really not a movie but a pilot for
a sit-com. All it's missing is the laugh-track.
The stories about the three brothers were well done, especially Barry's story (the middle brother). But I kept thinking the most interesting character in this story is the dead father, and he's not even in the movie. The brothers mention their father several times, usually in some disparaging way. You don't find out many facts about him, except that their mother never loved him. Apparently the sons didn't love him either.
The three brothers are desperate, each in their own way, to not end up like their father. The dead Mr. McMullen was characterized as an alcoholic, wife-abusing, stern and unhappy man. And yet Mr. McMullen had no trouble committing to one woman, which apparently Barry can't manage to do. Mr. McMullen remained faithful (apparently) in a 35 year marriage and raised 3 sons, which oldest son Jack can't bring himself to do. Mr. McMullen remained true to his religious and cultural upbringing, which youngest son Patrick is about to turn his back on when he splits for California.
So maybe that father wasn't such a failure after all. The sons won't realize this until they become husbands and fathers themselves. But they haven't reached that point yet, they're still growing up and figuring things out. It's nice to see how they help each other and take turns giving "parental" advice to each other.
I'd like to see this same story with these same characters, told 20 years before, and 20 years after the time of this movie. I'd like to meet the mother in Ireland as she greets her American grandchildren. Now that would be an interesting sequel.
I don't have much to say of this amazing film, except that it is an example how years from now, when Edward Burns receives life time achievement awards for all of his many talents, the people who were smart enough to see this film will be able to tell their children of how they could see this day coming from decades away. His ability to take three men and tell their story brilliantly without ever straying from something realistic, and still getting his happy ending, is surreal. He is an amazement and inspiration for all young film makers.
THE BROTHERS McMULLEN (1995) ***1/2 Edward Burns, Mike McGlone, Jack Mulcahy, Maxine Bahns, Elizabeth P. McKay, Shari Albert, Connie Britton, Jennifer Jostyn. Sort of an Irish-American Woody Allen flick but with style and originality: Burns (who stars, wrote and directed) filmed this on a budget at $20,000 and won The Sundance Film Fest's Jury Prize after being passed on every level. Three close and quarrelsome Irish/Catholic brothers from Long Island confront sex, sin, guilt, infidelity, commitment and finally love in this delightfully funny and smart slice of life.
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
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.
EDWARD BURNS is the writer/producer/director/actor of this charming
piece of casual film-making on a shoestring budget that he turned out
twelve years ago, obviously based on characters he cares about and
knows intimately. It has the intimate immediacy of MARTY, another such
tale about a lonely Brooklyn butcher looking for true love and the
right marriage prospect to end his bachelor days.
In THE BROTHERS McMULLEN we have MARTY compounded by three--namely, the Irish brothers on Long Island who seem to indulge in endless dialog about life, love and the pursuit of happiness while sipping their favorite beers, each involved in a troublesome relationship that has them questioning their inner conflicts born by a Catholic conscience.
It's not exactly up to the Woody Allen standard of such tales, but the dialog is fresh enough and natural, the modest settings are appropriate for the story and the jaunty Irish music on the soundtrack does its job.
Nothing complex here. Just a warm, engaging, occasionally funny tale of average guys struggling with their fixed ideas of moral values, each unable to come to terms with inner conflicts--and two of them simply unable to make commitments to the women they love.
The film is really carried by the three brothers: EDWARD BURNS as the one least able to commit, and JACK MULCAHY and MIKE McGLONE as his troubled siblings.
Summing up: Nothing really special, but it did win a couple of awards at film festivals.
Fifteen thousand pounds to many is a great deal of money, but in
Hollywood it'd barely make a runner's salary. So really it's an
unbelievable effort to produce a movie for this amount of money and win
a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 1995, as well as
recognition for Ed Burns as an all-round director/actor/producer/writer
extraordinaire. The end product being The Brothers McMullen; a project
made literally in his own backyard, using his own friends and
associates as his crew (such as his 'then' girlfriend who is his
girlfriend in the film and his friend).
The protagonist is Burns' character Barry, the middle brother, who is the wittiest, has the sharpest lines, and many would think the film is partly autobiographical because of this. Barry is a writer, jumps from woman to woman, makes wise guy remarks, and then he meets Audrey, played by Maxine Bahns, and is forced to get over his fear of commitment. How does he deal with it? Jack, the older brother, is a middle-aged teacher, who's quieter and loves his wife, but has to deal with the feelings of infidelity. How does he deal with it? Then there's Patrick, the younger religious sibling, a do-gooder who's soon to get married into a Jewish family, but he gets cold feet. Then hot feet. Then cold feet. He then gets his fiancé pregnant. Then he meets someone else. He then has to deal has to deal with the guilt. Or does he learn not to? Three very different brothers, the three Irish New Yorkers feed each other their advice and wisdom of love. It's not an original plot, but it works. Conversations flow from JFK, women, families, love, alcohol, their violent father, to family bonding, with a whole lot of swearing in between and Irish fiddle music in the background. Burns is something of a Plastic Paddy. Nevertheless, there's a lot of great word play, the plot isn't pretentious or trying to be too clever. It's heart-warming, without being soppy.
Minus points: one can appreciate Burn is an all-rounder, but he should maybe step outside his own box and become a character in the movie stop writing and starring as himself it's a bit egotistical. The acting was a bit amateur, especially Maxine Bahns though this can be forgiven for the fact they were at the time just that - amateurs. The editing was a bit disjointed in places. It doesn't flow as well as it could do. Then again, it only cost, as stated £15,000. It has to be expected.
I appreciated it a lot. A debut movie, that cost £15,000, cannot get much better. If you like Irish-American culture, take pleasure of budget movies and enjoy witty rom-coms try this.
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