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