Saturday, December 26, 2015

Brooklyn & Joy

I went to see Brooklyn with definitely low expectations. It sounded like some mushy romance. So, what a surprise it was to become enthralled by a marvelous performance by Saorirse Ronan as a seemingly plain girl who flourishes when she emigrates from County Wexford to Brooklyn in the early 1950s.

The film captures the period perfectly, so perfectly that I had forgotten how much things have changed since then. Brooklyn then had boarding houses and fancy downtown department stores. My aunt would send me shirts as birthday presents from Martin's, an old-line store, and I recall my first major Italian feast visiting a colleague of my dad's there.

Her return to Ireland makes it clear that while the locals may conspire to provide her with reasons to stay--a highly eligible man and a decent job--she will always have to deal with the gossip, often ill-intentioned, of a small town in rural Ireland. 

All of this is depicted with total clarity and understanding of the relationships involved. Sure, as in all movies, things proceed somewhat differently from real-life patterns, but here, the performances, including two by old-time pros like Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters, are superb.

Joy is more of a conundrum. Jennifer Lawrence fans will be well satisfied as she is on screen almost all the time and is highly accomplished. Robert DeNiro does what he does best: play a blustery man who has severe limitations may even start to recognize them. Other players contribute well: Virginia Madsen, Diane Ladd, and Isabella Rosselini, to name three. Bradley Cooper apparently was desired and thus paid quite well for a somewhat minor role.

The whole thing, however, fell short for me. It was a plot packed with occasions for many of the characters to display their eccentricities. It all started to come apart even as the title character demonstrated her moxie in soldiering on despite every kind of obstacle and problem, most of them created by her incredibly dysfunctional extended family. 

To me, the producers reassembled the Silver Linings Playbook team, but with a less well-made plot and too much distraction. The result of all this is a picture that drags--I kept looking at my watch.

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