Starring: Saorise Ronan, Emory Cohen, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Domnhall Gleeson, Jessica Pare, Emily Bett Rickards
Directed By: John Crowley
Brooklyn is that film you’ve probably been told to love by the critics way in advance. Some critics believe it may just be the best film of the year. It’s a fantastic movie, for sure, and has a decent shot at the title. It also offers an amazing performance by Saorise Ronan, who carries the entire film. It’s odd to say that the supporting cast never stands on her level, but they’re not really given the opportunity to. Both Julie Walters and Jim Broadbent are terrific actors, but their roles are so supporting, they have no individual arc. This movie is all about Ronan. In many ways, it feels hand crafted for her.
Brooklyn is beautiful with its scenery and art direction, really putting the viewer in the period. I loved everything from the clothes, to the details within each of the buildings. There was a point when Eilis (Ronan) and Tony (Cohen) were walking up some really old stairs in an apartment building, and I was thinking “Where did they find these stairs? Did they make them? These stairs are fantastic!” It’s a little thing, but I really appreciated the attention to detail. I think that people whose family have a strong connection to any recent wave of immigrants will appreciate the films overall tone, and Eilis as a character. She really is trying to make her own way in the world, contribute to society, and not be a bother to anyone. Donald Trump’s mind would be blown by this girl.
Ronan is forced through poor direction to carry the film, because the camera seems like it is on a constant close up of her face. I was watching a short presentation a while back about “ensemble staging”, and John Crowley has absolutely no idea what that is. He zooms in, frames perfectly on faces. And since Ronan is the lead, we spend a decent chunk of the film zoomed in on her face. Ronan absolutely HAS to emote in order to keep the film going. Whether it be tears, a small smile, a fluttering of eyelashes, Ronan has to come up with a new emotion every time the camera is zoomed into her face. It might not bother the average viewer, but I felt like we had a ton of closeups in this film, moreso than usual. It didn’t feel stylistically important either, it just felt lazy.
I would have appreciated seeing the actors emote from below the shoulder, since acting is really a full bodied experience, but we rarely get that here. I loved Brooklyn, despite Crowley, but I really hope he misses out on a DGA nomination and a Oscar nomination for his work here, as I’m not impressed at all by his talents. He did managed to make Brooklyn a good film, but a lot of that has to do with Ronan, and the amazing script penned by Nick Hornby (who also did An Education).
At times, Emory Cohen’s channeling of James Franco can be a bit much. If we ever need an actor to play Franco in a biopic, Cohen is the one to do it. It was almost as if he said “How would James Franco do this scene?” because it felt like an imitation of him. He does this sad puppy dog look a lot, and purses his lips at times for no real reason at all. And he speaks in the same structure as Franco.
Looking past that, Brooklyn is a beautiful story that we don’t really tell much anymore. It’s violence free. It’s largely sex free, and nudity free. There’s very little cursing. It feels like a movie we would have made 50 years ago, and there’s something that’s still perfect about it being made today. It feels timely, in a way, because of all the political talk about immigration, and what immigrants contribute to society. I think this is a reminder that America was built on immigrants, and that their blood and sweat are in the foundations of the buildings we live and work in today.
Don’t allow the previews to guide how you approach this movie either. The previews try and sell this as a love triangle, when it really isn’t. She spends way more time in America with Tony, and I never felt like she was going to choose Jim (Gleeson). Her time with him seems fleeting, and it incorporates maybe only a fourth of the movie. His presence in the film is a bit of a red herring, because it hides what Brooklyn is truly about. It’s about building a life, and finding your home. It’s not Twilight.
Brooklyn is one of those films that I felt like had more pros than cons, and that the pros almost completely save the film of the cons. If we had just taken a moment to find a better director, I think this film really would have a shot at Best Picture. At this point, I’d be surprised if it won.
FINAL GRADE: A-