The Brothers McMullen (1995) Poster

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A banana peel
Rainfox27 May 2000
* * * (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.
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In praise of dialogue
A Bania3 January 2002
'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.
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Enjoyable, well written, well acted
btm129 May 2008
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.
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Edward Burns' genius shines through.
serrae29 May 1999
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.
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Feels like a pilot for a sit-com
Kathy-7031 January 1999
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.
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A Fantastic Low-Budget Gem from the 1990's
D_Burke7 January 2009
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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Long Island's Woody Allen
george.schmidt28 February 2003
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.
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Irish brothers have to confront their Catholic consciences...
Neil Doyle2 March 2007
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.
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What movie did the reviewer watch?
vhmascitti15 November 2003
I wound up watching the movie by accident and it turned out to be an experience much like passing road kill: It's so horrid you can't look away.

And because it was so awful, I thought it might be fun to read a few reviews of it (reading reviews of bad movies is somewhat cathartic; you watch something awful and then let someone else vent about your wasted time....). What I found here was somewhat unbelievable. Somebody actually thought it had some redeeming features. It doesn't.

This film did not just have a surfeit of uninteresting characters who spoke extraordinarily turgid dialogue (one character says to the other "I don't think we should see ONE ANOTHER for awhile...." Nobody, really nobody, ever says ONE ANOTHER except in church.) It was also woodenly acted, nonsensically directed and had a plot so boring I kept switching to Tony Robbins infomercials for excitement. Shoestring budget or not, there's no excuse for inflicting this kind of movie on the paying public. Okay, I didn't actually pay to see it because it was on Bravo, but I paid my cable bill and that should count for something.

Bottom line is that this movie isn't funny, isn't sad, isn't thought provoking and isn't interesting. It is annoying.
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Slow, boring and predictable
V-Money10 June 2001
When I heard all of the accolades given to this low budget indie from good ole NYC, I was looking forward to seeing it a great deal. Now I wish I HAD MY TWO HOURS BACK. This is one of the most conventional and overrated movies of all time. The only thing independent about it, is its budget. It has almost no spirit, no real energy, and moves at a rate that will surely leave you in a clinical state of BOREDOM. The performances are decent enough, with the exception of Maxine Bahns....she's supposed to be an actress????? <Insert loud and obnoxious laughter!> BE WARNED............unless you wanna follow around a bunch of boring twenty-somethings that give New York a bad name, STAY AWAY!!!!!!!!!!
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Repression is not such a bad thing.
Andy (film-critic)25 September 2004
If there is one independent film that has been praised too much, and for too long, it is this film. This is the story of three brothers as they deal with life and love. Director/Actor Edward Burns really tries hard to bring out a film with some strong family values, but fails miserably. Here is the really funny part. Instead of just letting a dead horse remain in the barn, Burns counters with producing and directing the SAME movie, except this time it is called She's the One. How did this happen?

I know this is a short review, but I didn't want to bother writing down everything I disliked about this film, so I just kept it short and sweet. Overall, I say skip this film. It was pointless and drab and proved that if at first you don't succeed; release another film with a different title with basically the same plot.


Grade: * out of *****
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One-note, and a boring one at that
Boyo-28 February 2002
I don't really ask that much from a movie..just keep my interest, give me a reason to keep watching. I kept watching this but I don't know why. I was waiting for something to happen, something to show me that the TV Guide calling this 'charming' is justified.

Edward Burns must have family that work for TV Guide.

This movie is all the same thing...all just talk, talk, talk, and almost all of it is strikingly the SAME tone. Its like looking at one color for 90 minutes. Every single conversation starts out the same way and the same issues are discussed over and over and over. I was wishing for a drunk friend, a stoner down the street, SOMETHING to give this some life, because you only see the same seven people in the movie. No one seems to have any friends or do anything but examine their feelings. And no new ground in living in the world is ever've heard it all before, and by better actors, too.

This is topped by a faux-Hollywood ending, the main couple kissing in the middle of the street as cabs go by..hey, anything to get the damn thing over with, but it reeks of desparation.

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Lingering Disgust
aorourke13 May 2002
I suffered through this movie when it first came out and was just reminded of it and so motivated to warn others that it's only charming if you like bad jokes about female and Jewish stereotypes. The disgust still lingers.
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tedg14 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

I suppose we should all celebrate when anyone is able to pull off a first production that doesn't embarrass.

But that is faint praise, and this is pretty thin stuff.

I could find no interesting element in it, save the self-reference. It is a first time screenplay about the creation of a firsttime screenplay. If not overly clever, that enfolding is especially natural here, using a subtext of the Church as the rules for plays. As with his screen avatar, Burns breaks the dogmatic rules, but only in ways that follow the popular convention.

The result is a miscarriage.
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Charlie-1115 July 2000
I'd heard great things about this film, especially from my Irish-American relatives. But this film is laughably bad -- even for a low-budget debut. It is utterly predictable, and the screenplay is completely flat. Major transitions in the story occur with no depth or sense of urgency: the opening scene is atrociously rushed, and do we care at all at the ending? Where did the video cover image come from?? There's nothing halfway that energetic in this film. I liked but two things about this movie: the vapid dialogue (with melodramatic subject matter)made me laugh, and there was one genuinely good line -- about sweaters. Otherwise, skip it and enjoy a good glass of Guinness instead.
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joseayarza5 January 2003
That's it. That's the word that describes it all. "The Brothers McMullen" certainly is not the worst movie I have ever seen, but it's perhaps the dullest one. I don't know, I just have the feeling that the movie just kept focusing on the same and the same and the same, and grew tiresome. It needed some plot twists or new characters at the middle to give it a bit of fresh air, because honestly, the situations it presented were like trivial for me. Much as I wanted, I just didn't care about the characters or situations. However the movie has some high points. For example, the acting is pretty acceptable, especially if we considered that some (if not all) of the cast members were debuting in this film. The direction and camera work were nothing special, but not a disaster, like in other B-movies. Also, one of the good things about "The Brothers McMullen" is that it avoids cliches.

However, this movie was just too light for me. It needed more intensity. Sometimes it seemed like not even the characters cared about the situations presented. "She's the one", Burns' next film, was panned because it wasn't as realistic as this one. That's true, without a doubt, but at least that other film was more entertaining than this one, even if, admittedly, was completely formulaic and contrived. Rating 5/10.
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What rubbish!
CoenHead3 November 2002
I'm a fan of independent and low-budget films. I've seen quite a number of them, and I'm not necessarily put off by amateurish production quality, poor lighting & film quality, etc. - IF THE STORY AND CHARACTERS are there.

The Brothers McMullen has been lauded in indie-film circles for several years now. I've been meaning to see it for some time, and today did so. What I now can say with certainty is that all the buzz and hype around this film is utterly undeserved. The story is utterly banal, the characters are banal, thinly drawn and not just unsympathetic but entirely uninteresting and self-absorbed, and the "direction" childish. The camera and lighting is not just amateurish but seems nearly to be deliberately self-sabotaged.

Now let's get on to the illustrious Edward Burns - who has derived such attention and acclaim for this little "gem" of a film. In watching other films in which he appeared (Saving Private Ryan, 15 Minutes), I was struck by just how inexpressive, wooden and plastic-like his characters were. Yet he was said to be excellent in this film, so I tried to keep an open mind as I watched this film.

What did I discover? That Mr. Burns was no better in this film than he was in the others. I learned that Burns' sole talent is staring into the camera trying to pretend to convey meaning through his sad-sack eyes, yet he isn't capable of conveying ANYTHING - the man is essentially a mute when it comes to any sort of meaningful communication to the audience.

I can't imagine how any person watching this film could have come away with a positive impression of it - there simply isn't any part of it that I would recommend to anyone else. Give it a wide berth - don't waste your $3.95 renting this dreck at Blockbuster.
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One of the two worst movies I have seen
Galahad-615 September 1999
To date, there have only been two movies that I have rented and not bothered to finish watching. This is one of them. The script was inane, the cinematography was amateurish, and the acting was straight out of junior high school drama class. I don't know why people raved about this movie - the only good thing about it was the soundtrack. I rate each movie I see on its own merits, not by the director's track record, and this movie is a stinker.
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Beautifully made on a budget
nicholas-rogers20 November 2007
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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A gem of a flick!
cho cho25 May 1999
A little rough around the edges, but, hey! So are Jack, Barry, and Patrick, the Brothers McMullen: three young Irish-American guys whose dad stopped abusing them only when he fortunately died while mom still had enough of her looks to go back to the Auld Sod and find the one boy she'd truly loved but foolishly didn't marry all those years ago. It begins to look as if love's just as cruel for her three sons, but stick around--maybe things will work out, and maybe not. Edward Burns plays Barry so real he could have been your brother. He also writes, directs, produces, and maybe cleans the port-a-pots. Check it out!
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what indie films should be, but so rarely are.............GOOD!!!!!!!!!!!!
90910 January 1999
There's a ton of things wrong with this film. The acting is wooden at best. The script has holes all through it. And worst of all, the film itself looks like it was developed at a Photomat! But there's something about this film that has heart. There's something about this film's performances that has heart. It's as if each actor involved really believed in the project and wasn't just "phoning it in". I don't think that Ed Burns will ever be able to recreate the magic of this film....But he's still one up on 99% of Hollywood. This is a great movie because it works without all the polish that we're all so used to in American cinema.
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soranno5 November 2002
1994 and 1995 saw a massive proliferation in romantic comedies that, in a mild sense were originally reminiscent of the classic romance comedies of the 1930's, 1940's and early 1950's. However, the similarities ended when an abundance of profanity and sexual dialogue were added to them as well as casts for the MTV generation. "The Brothers McMullen" is a prime example of all of this and not a very good one at all. Weak and contrived. Writer-director-star Edward Burns tries to be another Woody Allen but hasn't quite gotten there yet.
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To help put things in perspective-
darwin-65 September 1999
Although everyone so far has praised this movie (as they should!), its been mentioned that there are some minor flaws like film quality etc... For the record, this movie was filmed as an independent for something like $35,000, a measly sum which makes the movies' overall beauty all the more amazing. Shooting so cheap requires even more directoral skill and personal vision. This is the true testament to Burn's impressive talent.
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Ed Burns' First Film
SmoothGrooves17 June 2005
Edward Burns took Sundance by storm with this wonderful debut film centering on three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island dealing with love, loss and brotherhood. Burns made the film using a $15,000 loan from his father, casting complete unknowns and shooting on weekends over the course of a year. "The Brothers McMullen" helped independent film become what it is today. Written in the tradition of other no-budget classics "El Mariachi" and "Metropolitan", Burns manages to do something that those films couldn't. While Robert Rodriguez had sharp and witty dialogue, it was the bullets and blood that made "El Mariachi" as exciting as it was. While "Metropolitation" kept you on the edge of your seat for the first half an hour, my interest lagged as the film progressed. "The Brothers McMullen", on the other hand, uses a completely dialogue driven script to excite the audience for the complete duration of the picture. If you're looking for cheap laughs and T&A, you might want to look elsewhere. But if you're looking for a heart warming indie classic, I'd definitely suggest "The Brothers McMullen".
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