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« Sundance: Don Hertzfeldt Peers Into The "World of Tomorrow" | Main | Beauty vs Beast: Winter Is (Still) Coming »
Monday
Feb022015

Sundance: Oscar Hopeful "Brooklyn" is Beautifully Old-Fashioned

Nathaniel's final review from Sundance

Late last year while interviewing Yves Belanger on his lensing of Wild (2014) and his ongoing working relationship with Jean Marc Vallee I noticed he had a non-Vallee project on his forthcoming filmography called Brooklyn. He spoke highly of the experience, an about face from Wild's all natural light mandate. He said it was much more stylized lighting, an 'old fashioned romantic drama'. He hoped people still wanted to see that sort of thing.

If the reaction at Sundance is any indication (and a word of caution: Sundance fever is 50/50 for the real world at best) the people will welcome it with open arms... and tear ducts.

(Fox Searchlight is also betting they will , turning Brooklyn into the single biggest sale at Sundance, with a healthy $9 million.)

The movie, based on the best-seller by Colm Toibin (adapted by Nick Hornby who just adapted Wild) is about a naive young impoverished Irish immigrant (Saoirse Ronan) who leaves home and family behind to make her life in America in the early 50s. She begins working in a department store and lives in a local girl's boarding house run by the strict Mrs Kehoe (Julie Walters, in a very crowd-pleasing role -- the dinner scenes are uniformly great fun). Despite work and shelter, she's desperately lonely and homesick. Until she meets a young Italian (Emory Cohen), that is, and romance blooms. But Ireland keeps tugging at her skirts, asking her back and another romantic possibility surfaces (enter another suitor: Domnhall Gleeson) Where and what and whom will she choose? How will she define "home"?

That's the bare skeleton of the story, but the thrill is in the the performances, particularly Saoirse Ronan who never pushes too hard in a star turn that traces a hugely successful arc from scared, young and lonely to confident and mature, and in the movie's movie-movie heightened reality. I never once forgot that I was watching a MOVIE  -  it won't be mistaken for realism - but that's not an insult.

So back to my the first adjective I heard about this movie before seeing it at Sundance.

"Old fashioned" is the perfect word for it. What it most reminded me of was old school sound-stage romantic melodramas. I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, for some modern conflicts, post-sexual revolution mores, grim psychology or even (channeling my mother) "horrible language" to slip in. And the closest the film came to any of those things was a slightly more modern frankness about sex but current cinema's mandatory swearing was contained to one instance of "holy shit" -- which is almost endearing in context though frankly the film probably should have done without it.) I even almost overcame my Emory Cohen and precocious child actor allergies while watching it... almost.

I could take my mother to this and she might well love it. Which is not to say that the rest of you will not. 

Grade: B+
Oscar Chances: Plentiful if it's a success with the public, but it would need that since it won't be a critical darling (again "old fashioned" and a "womans picture" in just about every way). If Fox Searchlight can capture some of the young romance craze that catapulted Titanic to ridiculous popularity or The Fault in Our Stars to major financial success expect a huge campaign for everything but particularly Actress (Ronan), Supporting Actress (Walters) and the crafts, especially production design (François Séguin of The Borgias) and costumes (Odile Dicks-Mireaux of An Education)

.

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Reader Comments (15)

I think the critics so far have been raving about it. Kenneth Turan was on NPR last week gushing about it and Variety gave it a really good review.

February 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Count me in, great cast, talented production crew, and script by Nick Hornby - sounds great. why be snobbish about old fashioned filmmaking? A good story well told is what we all want.
Isn't it?

February 2, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterLadyEdith

About time we had something totally old fashoined instead of bombs,cgi,meta acting,women as eye candy etc.

February 3, 2015 | Unregistered Commentermark

I'm so looking forward to this.

February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterTyler

Well, glad the movie is good and I always admire Saoirse Ronan. I was an outlier who thought the book was a slog. But my 70 year old mother-in-law and all her pals thought it was WONDERFUL, and as we know, they're part of the demographic who actually buy movie tickets. As do teenage girls. A period drama/young-ish romance? This should do well.

February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPam

I'm in for this, simply because Ronan is still top notch in nearly everything, and I'd love for her to get more Oscar love.

February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew

I loved the book so much and knew when Ronan replaced Mara that it was perfect casting and for being so young it's good to see Ronan doing so well in what is probably her first really grown up role. Also Nick Hornby with An Education and Wild has written two great screenplays and from the sounds of it looks like it's another great work by him. Also being picked up by Fox Searchlight this sound be a big contender come this time next year and Ronan getting her second nomination just makes me so overjoyed.

February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

Eoin -- well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. it's very early though if the film is a hit i could see her campaigning :)

February 3, 2015 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

This film sounds lovely. I love gritty dramas, but I have a major soft spot for these classic romances. Ronan is an impressive actress as well.

February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAudrey

Loved the book, and glad to see they pulled off the adaptation really well. Would love to see Ronan back in the Oscar game, especially after turning in some strong work the past few years ("Hanna" "The Grand Budapest Hotel" "How I Live Now" "The Way Back").

February 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterGeorge P.

Glad to hear about Ronan, it's felt like people grew cold on her as an actress over the past couple years, so I'm glad she'll have this now.

February 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

I loved the book . Really looking forward to seeing what Ronan does with that character. And Julie Walters with Oscar buzz - make that happen please!

February 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterErko

Isn't Emory Cohen that kid from Smash? (You won't believe it but I'm rewatching that show, and boy, he is damn awful in there.

February 4, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSeisgrados

Emory Cohen wasn't bad on Smash...he just wasn't playing it safe with that character...it might not have fit completely with the tone of the show, but you to admire him for taking a risk. BTW, he was great in The Place Beyond the Pines.

February 8, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMB76

Julie Walters Oscar buzz always makes me happy. I was just thinking the other night that Julie Walters should've been the winner in that messy but exciting supporting actress category the year she was nominated for Billy Elliott.

February 10, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

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