St. Patrick’s Day At The Movies
St. Patrick's Day is special for our family. My wife’s mother’s maiden name was O’Toole and my mother was born on St Patrick's Day.
The O’Tooles came to America to work on the railroad and later settled land in the Dakotas. My dear sweet Mother, God rest her soul said it was “quite the discussion” between her Mom and Dad on whether or not she would be named Patricia. Grandma Theresa prevailed and Mom was named Lorraine. Anyway back to the Blessed Saints day. We enjoy the parade and visiting with friends along the route through Downtown. Then it’s back home for slow cooked corned beef and cabbage and boiled potatoes. A bit of Guinness is enjoyed along with some Irish traditional music from the CD collection. Over the years we’ve taken to finding Irish movies to watch in the evening. They’re all on the lighter side meant to entertain. It’s my list of favorite Irish movies. I’ve put the list together along with what people said about them.
A spirited young man from New York, Chad (played by Hill Harper, very worth your notice), takes a trip to an island off the coast of Ireland. This after the death of his only remaining parent, to fulfill a promise to meet his estranged uncle: he is a local man full of his own ideas about how life should be lived, for himself as well as others. They embark on a personal journey full of challenges, surprises, family secrets and an uncertainty as to whether or not they will ever find common ground. This may not have been a super-high budget film but the acting is superb. Pierce Brosnan (one of the producers) gives a generous and compelling performance as the conflicted, village bar owner trying to balance parenthood and an amended life from behind the stone wall of a guarded heart. Veteran actor, Donal McCann, in one of his final performances, adds an authentic and credible edge as our protagonist's uncle. Sinead Cusak, Phelim Drew, Niall Tobin, Lorraine Pilkington and Aislin McGuckin also deliver command performances as the villagers that are comprised of both the kindred and not-so-kindred spirits in Chad's new world. The soundtrack is a compilation of beautiful Irish ballads, old soul and rock as well as various and sundry other scores that lend a tight musical canvas against which this story is painted. What keeps me coming back to this sweet and gallant movie is its soulfulness and honesty. This is a wonderful, interesting and thoughtfully structured comfort film. It begs to be watched from your favorite easy chair on a cozy day.
Jackie O'Shea lives in a quiet little village, which is beset by the kind of gossip normal in such communities. When he finds that the lottery has been won by someone in the village, Jackie is obsessed by finding who the winner is. After a lengthy process of elimination, Jackie concludes that his friend Ned must be the winner. But no one has seen Ned for days, so Jackie pays him a visit only to find that Ned has died of shock in his armchair in front of the TV when the lottery results were announced. Realizing that with no heir, Ned's winnings won't be paid out, Jackie persuades his friend Michael to impersonate Ned in order to claim the winnings, but things soon start to get very complicated as they attempt to keep up the facade…..
Directed by Lewis Gilbert and based on the long-running London stage hit by Willy Russell, Education Rita is a bit of a twist on the Pygmalian/My Fair Lady Theme. Starring the delightful Julie Walters in her first film role and seasoned actor Michael Cain, Education Rita is a sassy, smart and uplifting comedy that’s perfect for all ages. Rita (who’s real name is Susan), is a hopelessly naïve hairdresser who hungers for knowledge and aspires to rise up from the mediocrity of her dreary working class existence. Although married and age 24, Rita enrolls in an Open University course in English literature. There she meets Frank Bryant (Cain), an often intoxicated, divorced and disheveled professor who reluctantly comes to her rescue. When we’re first introduced to Rita, she’s a spunky little aspiring student with no end of intellectual curiosity and energy. She does look a bit of a tart with her pink streaked hair and short tight skirt, but she’s a child of circumstance. That’s not to say Rita isn’t smart. Despite the fact that she thinks Hamlet is a breakfast dish of scrambled eggs and sausage, she surprises us with her unassuming intellectual savvy and soon proves to be an inspiration to her tired, disillusioned tutor. You may ask, why is this considered an “Irish” film? I’ll admit, there are no Irish accents, no kindly priests and no fatherless children. The fact is the entire film was shot in Ireland. The “university” is really Trinity College in Dublin, the local café is really Dobbins Wine Bistro and many of the scenes were shot at St. Patrick’s College in Maynooth. If you read the credits, you’ll also see lots and lots of Irish names. All said, Educating Rita is a now classic film comedy. It’s a movie where audiences can laugh, cry and come to realize the magic of self-discovery and the power of choice. Walters and Cain received Golden Globes for Best Actress and Best Actor and they were both nominated for Oscars in the same category. Willy Russell won an Oscar for his screenplay and the Screen Commission of Ireland chalked up another great one.
Perhaps one of the reasons people don’t know about this charming romantic comedy from the Producer of the The Full Monte is because it has two titles. Originally called The Closer You Get, the story is about a group of regular Irish blokes who think the local girls are just too ordinary for their standards. Their isolated Irish village just isn’t turning out the likes of Bo Derek and other “typical” American girls, so they come up with the idea of posting an ad in the Miami Herald inviting the saucy women of the U.S. to pastoral Donegal for a good time and a prospective husband. The ladies of Donegal, plain though they may be, are a group of clever lasses. They devise their own plot to outwit the lads and to prove that the grass isn’t always greener and the girls aren’t always more desirable on the other side of the ocean. There have been sociological studies of Irish rural life and the “slim pickings” left to the local men in search of wives. It seems many women emigrated to larger cities in search of jobs and a life that didn’t revolve around the local post office and sheep herding. Donegal is just one of those exquisite pastoral villages virtually left unchanged for decades. It’s a great place to visit, but you wouldn’t necessarily want to live your entire adult life there, unless you’re a priest, a sheepherder or a Leprechaun.