Year 8, Day 252 - 9/8/16 - Movie #2,447
BEFORE: This is a last-minute addition to the list, premium cable started running it a couple weeks ago, but it wasn't really a high priority for me to add it - until I realized that Julie Walters appears in it, and she could carry over easily from "Calendar Girls", and she'll be here tomorrow night as well. Once I saw that this could slip in between two other films with Julie Walters, and another actor from this film will link tomorrow too - that made it a must-see. Of course, I had the rest of 2016 blocked out, so that means if I add something on the fly, I'll have to drop something later, without disrupting the chain. Probably that would be "Sausage Party", which I was going to watch between two other Seth Rogen films - I'll keep it in mind in case something else falls through, but with a cast that large, I can probably link to "Sausage Party" quite easily next year, keeping "Brooklyn" for next year and finding a way to link to it would probably have been a tougher challenge.
THE PLOT: An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.
AFTER: This still fits with the European/U.K. theme, since part of the film is set in Ireland (the beginning part, and then another part near the end). I was afraid that it would all be set in Brooklyn, and might seem out of place, but it's all good.
Eilis (pronounced a bit like Alice, only with a long "A" sound) is a young Irish girl who gets sponsorship to come to America, leaving her mother and sister behind. Her experiences living in a Brooklyn boarding-house eventually lead her to attend community dances, where she starts dating an Italian plumber. Meanwhile she works at a posh department store and takes courses at Brooklyn College in the hopes of becoming a bookkeeper or an accountant.
However, when circumstances compel her to return to Ireland, she finds she is treated much differently, like a big-shot, and soon she's got a bookkeeping job lined up, and also a potential romance with a man she has much more in common with - eventually she's forced to choose between the new life she established in New York and the old life in Ireland.
I get that America is the "land of opportunity" and all that, but I couldn't help but feel sort of manipulated by what I felt was a pro-U.S. agenda. There didn't seem to be any downsides to living in Brooklyn, and having once lived there for 13 years myself, I can tell you that it just can't be all wine and roses. I mean, there's good and bad everywhere, right? But this film would have you believe that life in Ireland completely sucked and everything in 1950's Brooklyn was fantastic.
Even when Eilis returns to Ireland and things seem really great at first, she soon finds that all the pettiness and harsh treatment she had hoped to escape are still there, just hidden under the surface. Again, I feel this did something of a disservice to Ireland - surely there must be some good people in that country.
But what evidence is given to support this notion, that the U.S. is so much better than Ireland? Is it our educational facilities, our cultural institutions, our influence on pop culture? Nope, according to this film, it's baseball and our innovative way of wearing our bathing suits under our clothes when we go to the beach. I'm not kidding, this is mentioned twice in the film, once to show that Eilis is not truly American because she has to change clothes AT the beach at Coney Island, and then when she goes to the beach in Ireland, suddenly she's a super-smart American because she knows enough to plan this.
That's it, that's the thing that sets Americans apart and makes them great? Not our democracy or the electoral college, or our fully-funded postal system? Not even chili dogs or cotton candy, it's the way we wear our swimsuits (at that time, called "bathing costumes") under our clothes. Which, if you think about it, isn't really that great - I mean, if you wear your swimsuit you can't also wear underwear, and you're essentially turning your bathing suit into underwear if you wear it all day, and that's gross, especially after you've been swimming and it's still all soggy and stuff. I could give you over a hundred reasons why America is great, and to me, this would not be one of them.
And while I understand that Eilis had a difficult decision to make, whether to return to her new life in Brooklyn or her older one in Ireland, and there may have been pros and cons of each, I think it's a shame that the decision ultimately was taken out of her hands. In my opinion, it would have been much more interesting to see what she would have chosen, if she were allowed to make that choice.
They didn't shoot the film in Brooklyn (except for the Coney Island scene), they shot in Montreal - apparently there was trouble in getting modern-day Brooklyn to look like 1950's Brooklyn. Which is surprising to me, because I think there are parts like Red Hook (industrial) and Brooklyn Heights (lots of brownstones) that I don't feel have changed that much in appearance.
Also starring Saoirse Ronan (last seen in "Muppets Most Wanted"), Jim Broadbent (last seen in "Around the World in 80 Days"), Domhnall Gleeson (last seen in "Anna Karenina"), Emory Cohen (last seen in "New York, I Love You"), Fiona Glascott, Jane Brennan, Maeve McGrath, Eileen O'Higgins, Jessica Paré (last seen in "Hot Tub Time Machine"), Emily Bett Rickards, Eve Macklin, Nora-Jane Noone, Samantha Munro, Mary O'Driscoll, Alain Goulem, Jenn Murray, Paulino Nunes, Ellen David, Michael Zegen (last seen in "Adventureland"), James DiGiacomo.
RATING: 5 out of 10 plates of spaghetti