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The third installment of Irish author Roddy Doyle's 'Barrytown Trilogy', following 'The Commitments' and 'The Snapper', depicts the hilarious yet poignant adventures of Bimbo. Upon being fired from his job at the bakery, Bimbo and his best mate go into business for themselves and purchase a chipper (a fish and chips van); but will the pressures of financial success sour their friendship forever? Written by
Dawn M. Barclift
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An enjoyable little drama despite lacking the wider meaning I had hoped it would have
When Brenda 'Bimbo' Reeves is laid off he finds himself on the dole and irking out a unfulfilling life with friend Larry. When a 'friend' sells them a clapped out old chip van Bimbo and Larry decide to make a go of it and, once they have removed an inch of grease from the van and worked out how to move it without an engine, they are in business. With the pubs crammed due to the 1990 World Cup, business looks great and, as Ireland continue to win their way through the tournament, things just look like getting better and better.
Being from Northern Ireland myself, I always find something to like in Doyle's very typical delivery and, as such, will always give the films adapted from his work a try. With The Van doing average business in the cinemas, I had to wait till it came onto television before I could get a chance to see it and it was as I expected, an enjoyable working-class fable of friendship set against the backdrop of unemployment. As such it is pretty good providing good humour throughout as well as a nice build of tension between the two friends. What I didn't think it did very well was deliver something beyond the boundaries the film had set itself. By this I mean I had expected that the film would be more realistic whereas it really was more of a fable with a moral about friendship over money; it is not a bad thing that it did this but the film could have been stronger with it in my opinion.
However, for what it tries to do it manages to be slight but amusing with a good little turn into the dramatic towards the end to set up the lesson for the day. The cast fit the bill for this type of material as well; Meaney may well have been in several big American hits but he is more at home here and he is a totally convincing working class Irish man. O'Kelly is just as good for different reasons he is the same class but one who thought he was out; maybe you need to have lived around these sorts of areas but I thought he was realistic enough. The two have good chemistry and the support cast are also good value.
Overall this is not the best of Doyle's films but it is an enjoyable little slice of Irish life albeit very simplified and served up in a sauce of cheerful poverty. The script doesn't go deeper than the superficial issues of friendship but this still work well enough and they produce an enjoyable little Irish fable that is amusing as it delivers a lesson about friendship that is thankfully free of sentimentality or slush.
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