– by Cecily Knobler, Live From Hollywood –
It’s that time of year again, when beer runs green with food coloring, happy hour whiskey specials go all night, donuts become chlorophyll-colored and people can pinch each other for choosing the wrong outfit. No, not Christmas, although I guess that can apply too. Of course, we’re talking about St. Patrick’s Day, the only holiday where consuming massive quantities of alcohol is considered honorable and hangovers are the norm.
But instead of either talking about real actual Irish tradition or focusing on the party aspects of the day, let’s take a moment to talk about the loveliness of the Irish in cinematic form. None of the films I’m going to recommend are “let’s drink and sing ‘Danny Boy’” kind of jams, but instead will exemplify a more gentle side of the Irish culture.
Without further ado:
Set in Dublin, this romantic musical stars real-life musicians Glen Hansard (who’s actually Irish) and Markéta Irglová. Quite a few fun facts: Glen and Markéta play characters who bond through music and heartbreak in the film. But in real life, the two fell in love while promoting the movie and actually became a couple. Also, the film’s writer/director, John Carney, played bass guitar for Glen’s real life band The Frames.
Once is just the sweetest story, even for the most cynical at heart. The film was such a sleeper success, it went on to become an extremely popular Broadway/West End musical that l could watch a million times. And while as an actress, Irglová is unfortunately severely lacking, I never tire of Glen’s earnestness or the sweet music the two produce. (I especially have a soft spot for the song “Falling Slowly,” which if you’ve not heard, is a must.)
So thanks to the sweet but corny helming of Ron Howard as the director, this one was a little cheesy. But it was interesting to watch Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman attempt Irish accents together. They’d just married in 1990, two years before the film was released. (They of course would go on to make quite a few other films together, including the unfortunate Eyes Wide Shut.)
Far and Away begins in Ireland. We later watch our two leads travel to America in search of free land at the end of the 19th century. Both Cruise and Kidman’s accents are pretty atrocious (think Lucky Charms) and their chemistry is certainly lacking. Interesting and possibly foreboding. Come to think of it, I think I’m actually putting this film on the list as a “bad movie to enjoy” if you’re into that sort of thing. As with Once, there really is something nice about watching real-life couples performing together, even if it’s not their best work.
Like Far and Away, this recent Oscar-nominated movie is the story of an Irish woman who moves to the States in search of a better life. However, that’s where the similarities end. Brooklyn takes place in the 1950s and instead of looking for land/gold, our leading lady is looking for love and adventure. She finds it in the most unlikely of places and people and it’s simply a joy to watch. Saoirse Ronan plays the lead compellingly and with a tender vulnerability. I don’t want to spoil the plot, but I will say the rest of the cast is just as strong, as is the gorgeous cinematography and production design.
Nick Hornby, who is one of my favorite authors/screenwriters and whom I had the pleasure of meeting recently, wrote the screenplay and gives it the perfect balance of humor and sincerity. It’s tough not to enjoy this one!
Well there seems to be a theme here. As in Brooklyn, these characters come to New York, although this time in the early 1980s. When Jim Sheridan is writing/directing, you know you’re in good hands in terms of an Irish tale and this one so happens to be semi-based on his own life.
Paddy Considine and Samantha Morton play an Irish couple who move to Canada and then New York with their children after a terrible tragedy. There, the plan is to rebuild their lives and strengthen their love. Of course as in real life, this plan’s execution ebbs and flows, but man is it lovely to watch!
Again, the king of modern Irish storytelling Jim Sheridan directs. My Left Foot is adapted from an autobiography by Christy Brown, who’s the subject of the film. Brown is played by the astounding Daniel Day Lewis, who won an Academy Award for his portrayal. In fact the movie garnered quite a few Oscar wins and nominations overall. Brown, an artist with cerebral palsy who can only control his left foot, is inspiring and so is the movie!