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ISSUE
  Thursday
171
  April 8
2004
c o n t e n t s
 
 

Reviving Royal Sin: Strong Performances Bring 'The Duchess of Malfi' to Life

Utah Ballet Focuses on What's Best
Parker Played it Rite
 

Remember Thornton, Forget 'The Alamo
'

Take a Peep at 'The Girl Next Door'
 
 
 

 theReel
 
An 'Intermission' From Bland Films
 
by Jeremy Mathews

“Intermission”
IFC Films
Directed by John Crowley
Written by Mark O’Rowe
Produced by Neil Jordan, Alan Moloney and Stephen Woolley
Starring Colin Farrell, Shirley Henderson, Colm Meaney, Cillian Murphy, Kelly Macdonald, David Wilmot, Michael McElhatton and Deirdre O'Kane

Rated R

(out of four)

The opening scene of “Intermission” at first appears to be a romantic comedy about life’s randomness, then without warning turns into a violent crime story about life’s randomness. The tale of a small, lower-middle-class Irish town turns out to be a black comedy, closest in tone to the recent spate of British gangster films such as “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.” But its broader focus includes grocery store employees, jilted housewives and young women with mustaches.

Director John Crowley cross-cuts between a mosaic of lonely, alienated and/or viscous characters, all seen through a gritty, hand-held camera. It’s an accomplishment in itself that he managed to get all the stories into a less-than-two-hour film and still make sense out of it all.

The only truly hardened criminal is Lehiff, played by the great (and hunky) Colin Farrell, making a return to Irish cinema after a successful move to Hollywood. He’s the one from the opening scene, who leads on a check clerk, only to reveal his true motives just when she thinks she’s found a nice guy. While Farrell’s balance of comedy and cruelty is impressive, the film has no reservations about forgetting him for large periods of time to look at the myriad of other stories.

The only character who matches Lehiff’s meanness is Detective Jerry Lynch (Colm Meaney), a bad-ass cop who might not be particularly great at his job, but is good at acting like the kind you see on TV. A TV news producer, tired of taping subjects such as a man desperately trying to get his rabbits to race, wants to do a piece on the dark side of life, and wants Lynch to take him on a tour.

While the theme of a journalist going to the dark side has been done to death, “Intermission” puts an amusing spin on things, as Meaney’s cop desperately wants to be in the spotlight, perhaps even more than the journalist wants to tell the story. Meaney cleverly creates a character who concerns himself more with how to make everyone know he’s tough than with actually being tough. When his co-workers make fun of him, it hurts him more than it would a normal person because he’s only what people perceive him to be.

The rest of the cast, with the exception of Lehiff, are also obsessed with how they appear so that they can receive love from would-be and former lovers, or from people in general. If life is all acting, then the intermission is a moment when people are honest about who they are.

John (Cillian Murphy) suffers from more than a horrible grocery store job with a hard-ass boss—his girlfriend, Deirdre (Kelly Macdonald) dumped him for an older bank manager, Sam (Michael McElhatton), who in turn left his wife, Noeleen (Deirdre O'Kane).

John is a small-time crook whose greatest achievement was stealing a large box of brown sauce. To use it all, he puts it in everything from his cereal to his coffee, and the sauce in the coffee seems to be catching on.

His friend and fellow employee, Oscar (David Wilmot), is in desperate search of a girlfriend and eventually goes to a bar populated by older women and hooks up with Noeleen, who has conceived a much more violent method of sex to get even with her husband.

Meanwhile, Sam and Deidre aren’t as happy as they planned to be now that they’ve moved in together, and Sam never wants to leave the house. He also has to put up with questions about his cheating from Sally (Shirley Henderson), Deidre’s jilted sister, who in turn has to repeatedly deny that she has a bit of a mustache. Henderson plays her character with a quiet doubt and an occasional moment of anger, as she refuses to admit her mustache’s existence and therefore bleach or shave it.

Popping up in the peripherals of these stories is a mischievous boy on a bicycle who has no qualms about causing injury-inducing “accidents,” including a bus rollover. Crowley leaves the boy’s motives ambiguous, although the creepy kid at certain times seems completely evil and is never less than sinister. There is, however, a hint that he is actually trying to get attention.

Crowley’s cross-cutting sometimes interrupts the flow more than it aids it, and the film gradually reveals that the filmmakers think they’re a bit more clever than they really are. But the interesting dynamic of horror and comedy and the endless supply of talented actors keeps the film from ever getting boring. And there aren’t many films that give you a violent punchline to a romantic pickup line and an idiotic question punchline after someone briefly describes a rumored rape.
jeremy@red-mag.com

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