Brooklyn has received rave reviews, and I have absolutely no idea why. It’s not a bad movie, it’s worse — it’s a bland movie.
Based on Colm Tóibín’s 2009 novel, the film is about Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young woman moving from Ireland to Brooklyn in search of a better life. While in the city, she deals with homesickness, but it eventually subsides when she meets a man, Tony Fiorello (Emory Cohen).
However, she receives letter from home saying her young sister, Rose (Fiona Glascott) has died suddenly, and she returns to visit her grave and make sure her mother is all right. While there, she meets another man, Jim Farrell (Domhnall Gleeson), who wants her to stay in Ireland, because apparently there are still people in this world who aren’t completely exhausted with love triangles.
I don’t get it. I just don’t get it.
The film has received praise for its accurate period setting, but the period setting is woefully understated. Word of God is the film starts in 1952, but you would never know it from the actual product. There’s no typical ’50s period music or lighting, no news events, not even a subtitle. The only thing about the production design that highlights the time period is the clothing, which doesn’t even look like ’50s clothing as much as it does particularly boring contemporary clothing. Maybe it’s all period accurate and everything else set in the time period is exaggerated and Hollywoodized, that’s a valid possibility.
But more important than that, there’s no feel for what it means to be in this time period. There’s little about why Lacey has to abandon her family. Immense difficulty is implied in the move’s logistics, but they’re not detailed. The biggest piece of missing information, though, is how it feels. What is the zeitgeist of this time period? What is the promise of America, both in general and to Lacey personally? Neither of these things are addressed.
The film has received praise for its humor and memorable characters, but all I remember is women being shitty to each other and men being helpless in their presence. Scene-to-scene, almost all conversation points revolve around Lacey’s — or someone else’s — appearance, either how much more attention she needs to put into it or how irresistible she is. All the characters, even her love interests, bleed into this indistinguishable mass of either catty passive-aggression or nervous obsession. A lot of people mistake sass for humor, and people who make that mistake would find this funny I guess, but most of the things people are apparently laughing at don’t even register as jokes.
Ronan is getting a lot of Oscar attention, and that makes sense. She’s onscreen for the majority of the film, which is being released slowly on an Oscar-bait schedule, and there’s not a lot of competition because Hollywood hates women, but she’s just not that great. It’s much more the fault of the screenplay, which has her doing basically nothing during most of her scenes, but she’s still given long close-ups for the Oscar reel, a handful of 20-second shots in which she goes through her character’s mostly undefined emotions. They’re the most boring part of a boring film.
The most notable thing about Brooklyn, really, is its five act structure. There’s two separate three act structures in the movie, with Lacey preparing to leave, staying and then preparing to go back, but the first act three and second act one overlap, so five acts it is. It’s interesting.
The movie really isn’t, though.
Leopold Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist and journalism student at the University of North Texas. Lying is fun! I’ve had a change of heart in regard to reader input. It is now welcomed and encouraged. Like Reel Entropy on Facebook, follow it on Twitter @reelentropy, and shoot questions to reelentropy@.