The Films of John Crowley
Intermission (May 27/04)
An Irish riff on Magnolia and Short Cuts, Intermission details the exploits of several characters in and around Ireland - including a charming thief (Colin Farrell's Lehiff), a tough cop (Colm Meaney's Jerry), and a lovestruck sad sack (Cillian Murphy's John). Director John Crowley has infused Intermission with a gritty style that effectively complements the rough-and-tumble nature of these characters. If his goal was to make Ireland look like a dangerous and unpleasant place to live, there's no denying that Crowley has succeeded. He takes his camera into dingy bars, poorly-lit grocery stores, and dilapidated buses - effectively painting a very specific portrait of a certain segment of Irish society. The film's not entirely downbeat, though; screenwriter Mark O'Rowe inserts a good amount of humor and levity into the story, though it's mostly of the dark variety. The comedy generally comes into play during unexpected moments of violence; like Pulp Fiction, the sudden bursts of action usually involve something bloody and inexplicable (eg Marvin's head exploding). Farrell's Lehiff is a big contributor to this aspect of the film, with the actor delivering an electrifying and volatile performance. As tends to be the case with a film like this (one that features several storylines), it doesn't come as much of a surprise that there's at least one plotline that doesn't entirely work. Though he gives a great performance, it quickly becomes evident that Meaney's Jerry doesn't have much to contribute to the overall narrative. There's a certain momentum that builds up throughout the proceedings, a momentum that comes to a dead halt whenever Crowley dwells on Jerry. It's no fault of Meaney's; the character, simply put, just isn't all that interesting. Intermission doesn't make much of an impact - it's the kind of movie you'll pretty much forget about after leaving the theater - but the performances keep things moving, even through some of the more superfluous moments.
Boy A & Is Anybody There?
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Closed Circuit (November 19/15)
Closed Circuit follows lawyers (and ex lovers) Martin Rose (Eric Bana) and Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) as they're forced to team up on a high-profile terrorism case, with problems ensuing as it becomes more and more clear that said case isn't quite as cut-and-dried as it may have initially appeared. There's little doubt that Closed Circuit fares especially poorly in its opening stretch, with the movie suffering from an overly deliberate pace that's compounded by a dry, less-than-engrossing narrative. (The somewhat tedious relationship between Bana and Hall's respective characters doesn't help matters.) It's clear, then, that the film improves immeasurably once it progresses into its comparatively engrossing midsection, as scripter Steven Knight places a growing emphasis on Martin and Claudia's growing paranoia involving the case (ie it becomes clear that there's a massive conspiracy at work here). The progressively intriguing atmosphere is heightened by the inclusion of several standout sequences, including Claudia's tense efforts at translating a key phrase and Martin's polite-on-the-surface encounter with a quietly menacing upper-echelon figure (Jim Broadbent, in a scene-stealing cameo). Closed Circuit does, unfortunately, fizzle out to fairly prominent effect in its final stretch, with the focus shifting to a series of rather hackneyed and predictable events that lead into a far-from-shocking conclusion - which confirms the movie's place as a passable yet underwhelming political thriller.
An effective (and affecting) period drama, Brooklyn follows Irish immigrant Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) as she arrives in 1950s New York City to start her new life - with the character's rocky start giving way to genuine happiness as she makes friends and begins dating a kind-hearted plumber (Emory Cohen's Tony). It's a simple premise that's employed to slow-moving yet engaging effect by filmmaker John Crowley, with the movie's unapologetically traditional atmosphere heightened by a raft of exceedingly positive elements (eg the flawless production design, Yves Bélanger's lush cinematography, etc). There's little doubt, however, that Brooklyn's success is due almost entirely to Ronan's mesmerizing turn as the sympathetic protagonist, as the actress steps into the shoes of her affable character to a rather hypnotic degree - which effectively ensures that the film's mid-movie shift to character study works far better than one might've anticipated. (It doesn't hurt, either, that the romance between Eilis and Tony is compelling and genuinely sweet.) Brooklyn does, however, lose some momentum as it enters its Ireland-set third act, with Eilis' inexplicable (and, frankly, out-of-character) behavior towards Tony souring the majority of this stretch and ensuring that the love triangle that eventually emerges feels needless and shoehorned-in. The film recovers nicely for an appropriately feel-good finale that proves difficult to resist, with the end result a solid effort that firmly establishes Ronan as one of the most talented actresses of her generation.