Sunday, March 28, 2004


* * ¾ (out of four)
Seen 28 March 2004 at Loews Harvard Square #5 (first-run)

So, if we're going to blame George Lucas and Steven Spielberg for every bad or mediocre special-effects fueled blockbuster since Jaws and Star Wars, who do you blame for the likes of Intermission? Quentin Tarantino? Danny Boyle? Or we can just lay it at the feet of this movie's writer and director, Mark O'Rowe and John Crowley (respectively). After all, they're the ones who opted to make yet another chatty crime/comedy movie set in Dublin.

It's pleasant enough. Somewhat scattershot, with a dozen or so characters interacting in ways that are both likely and perhaps overly coincidental. John (Cillian Murphy) and Oscar (David Wilmot) are twenty-something slackers working in a supermarket, Dierdre (Kelly MacDonald) is John's ex-girlfriend, Sam (Michael McElhatton) is her new lover, Noeleen (Dierdre O'Kane) is the wife he left, and Karen and Sally (Barbara Bergin and Shirley Henderson) are Dierdre's mother and sister. There's also Lehiff (Colin Farrell), a local punk, and Detective Jerry Lynch (Colm Meaney), a perhaps overzealous police officer with a particular distaste for Lehiff. There's also a bus driver, a TV news reporter tired of doing human-interest puff pieces, and a rather nasty little kid.

One thing I did enjoy about Intermission is that, although its characters and setting are Irish and middle-class at best, it's rather un-whiny. Though a good chunk of the movie takes place in bars, the movie does not portray Eire as a war-torn island mired in poverty and populated mainly by wife-beating alcoholics and saintly women. The characters are flawed, but seldom despairing, and often on the funny side.

Be nice if it were a little funnier, though. The comedy doesn't ever elicit any really big laughs, and most of the stories are small enough to not offer a whole lot of dramatic heft. Perhaps the best scene in the movie, though, is where one character describes how much she cherishes her simple, small life story. It's a brief moment without flippancy that demonstrates the worth of these middle-class stories without trying to show how clever the filmmakers are.

The performances are generally good. The cast is split about evenly between folks Americans might recognize and folks pretty much local to Ireland. Oddly (or not so oddly), the guy whose had the most Hollywood success - Colin Farrell - gives perhaps the flattest performance, while one of the least well-known - Wilmot - is probablly the most likable. For the most part, these characters are folks with a quirk or two, though thankfully half the women get to be just as off-kilter as the guys, which isn't always the case.

If you see a lot of indies, you've probably seen a lot like Intermission. It's decent, has an enviable cast, and even if it doesn't break a whole lot of new ground, it does find a couple new things to do in familiar territory.

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