Bravery is shaping up as my theme of the week over at Girls with Glasses. And this woman tops them all, hands down. Joel Schumacher (“Lost Boys” and “Batman & Robin”) directs and Jerry Bruckheimer (“Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Pearl Harbor”) produces this serious, personal story of a journalist who refuses to let the mobsters of 1996 Dublin beat her into submission…wait. What?
I know. Crazy but true. These two classic Hollywood hams helmed the telling of this fantastically small (by their standards), true story. Okay, so they had some help from the Irish – writers, crew, and all the actors, with one notable exception – their Aussie lead, Cate Blanchett. Here she plays Veronica Guerin, the courageous woman in question. Per usual, Blanchett is perfect, but I don’t mean in a distant, professional way. Yes, she shows Guerin’s bravado, but this is also probably the most likeable character I’ve ever seen her portray – no queens or Elvish ladies in sight. Just a soccer fanatic with a penchant for talking to people in deep trouble (as well as the folks causing it), and doing it with a disarming lilt and infectious enthusiasm. (Blanchett received a ten minute standing ovation at the Dublin premiere, a city which considers Guerin a national hero, bordering on sainthood.)
What I really enjoyed about this film was the toned-down honesty of it. It’s not a glammed-up, brochured Ireland, but the Dublin I remember visiting several times in the early 1990s. Very unlike its popular carefree image, Ireland then was suffering its worst poverty in a century. The British students at my Welsh university joked that it was the Third World nation of Europe. Bus trips across the country revealed entire villages that had been abandoned, and our Dublin hostel staff warned us to hide our money well from the gangs of street children roaming the streets – in all parts of the city. Ninety percent of Ireland, they told us, lived in Dublin, and over half of it was dead broke. No wonder mobsters came to rule the roost. (Northwest readers might be interested in seeing how meth had already established itself in Dublin, at the same time it was just taking hold in northern California, Oregon and Washington.)
Unlike many an indie flick dealing with drug use and council flats (see “Trainspotting”), though, the audience isn’t trapped in this grey hopelessness. We move, just as Guerin does, between this world and the cozy, stone-walled country house she and her very middle-class, very happy family share. Speaking as an American living in comparative middle-class comfort and security, I needed these scenes as a pressure valve. I don’t want to feel I can’t escape, not just out of bourgeois guilt (though of course that’s there, too), but because otherwise, what’s the point? If you can’t change a thing, if you aren’t trying to make it better, then why wallow? Misery is so much easier to depict than a way out of it. Despair is easier to earn on film than hope. But I don’t want to watch it. No worries here. It’s not a Hollywood ending, but I did experience joy, resolution and inspiration along with the honesty.
Of course, none of these high ideals or artistic integrity mean anything in the end if you fall asleep halfway through the movie. I think this is why we’re all so suspicious of Important, Nominated Films. Yes, they’re serious, well-acted, etc., but…well…it looks a little boring.
Not a bit here. Greasy mob insider and brothel-boss Ciarán Hinds (Julius Caesar in HBO’s recent “Rome”), an excellent supporting cast and quick cuts all keep the pace lively and the voyeur in us all engaged. Even Colin Farrell shows up for a good-natured cameo.
Great movie – popcorn would be perfect. Maybe Bruckheimer and Schumacher knew what they were doing after all.