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The Brothers McMullen

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: The Brothers McMullen

Starring: Edward Burns, Jack Mulcahy
Director: Edward Burns
Rated: R
RunTime: 98 Minutes
Release Date: August 1995
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Mike McGlone, Connie Britton, Shari Albert, Elizabeth P. McKay, Maxine Bahns, Catherine Bolz

Review by Steve Rhodes
3 stars out of 4

THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN is a low budget film by new director Edward Burns that received the top award, the Grand Jury Prize, at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. For a low-budget film, I was surprised to see that it was released by 20th Century Fox, and other than the grainy Cinematographic images by Dick Fisher, it was extremely professional and well done.

THE BROTHERS MCMULLEN opens in a graveyard as the father of the three brothers, Barry (Edwards Burns), Jack (Jack Mulcahy), and Patrick (Mike McGlone) has just been buried. Their mom leaves immediately after the funeral for Ireland to be with her long lost boyfriend of 35 years ago. Her admonition to Barry is "promise me you won't make the same mistake I did."

From the very beginning we see a movie with two intertwined themes. The main one involves what to do with one's life, especially regarding love, commitment, marriage, and affairs. As Patrick says to Barry, "What am I going to do with my life? You know I didn't think college was actually going to end." Jack, on the other hand, naively believes that his life is in great shape and proudly proclaims to the entire family at his wife's 30th birthday dinner that "I am a progressively modern, politically correct housewife."

The other theme or more correctly the subtext of the movie has to do with Catholicism in a modern Irish-American family in New York City. The Catholicism the show deals with has nothing to with the belief in or the worship of God. The brothers are concerned most about the rules and regulations of the faith. They violate most of them, but nevertheless are obsessed with the implications of their "living in sin." Sometimes they even view this in a positive light as when Patrick says, "Repression is not such a bad thing." One of his girl friends keeps wanting him to convert to Judaism and the other describes herself as a pro-life, vegetarian, ex-Catholic.

As you can already see from the quotes, the script by the director Edward Burns is one of the high points of the film. Another one of my favorite lines is when Patrick says, "I don't need any new ideas. I'm confused enough already". There is a running series of jokes about Amy Fisher and Joey Buttafuoco since, like Buttafuoco, the brothers live on Long Island. These jokes are all hilarious and are made doubly funny since Jack Mulcahy is a dead ringer for Joey Buttafuoco. I wondered if the writer realized this when he wrote the script?

The actors and actress appeared to be in their first movies. They all showed promise and made the little mistakes of a rookie major leaguer. Although the movie was about the brothers, the women, Susan (Shari Albert), Audry (Maxine Bahns), Molly (Connie Britton), Leslie (Jennifer Jostyn), and Ann (Elizabeth McKay), were just as good. The best of the actress has to be Maxine Bahns who had never acted before this movie. I hope she keeps up her acting career. She brings a freshness and an unpredictability that makes for a compelling performance.

Perhaps it was realistic, but I was bothered by all of the drinking in the show. Although the brothers continue to malign their father as a vicious alcoholic, everyone of them drinks beer continually in almost every scene. The beer, however, has no effect on them and their speech remains clear and their thoughts well composed. Sure.

In addition to all of the points mentioned about, there is also lovely instrumental Irish music by Seamus Egan. Finally, many movies, particularly those by new writers, start off well, but run out of ideas by the last act. Here the best part of the movie is the way it is all wrapped up. Highly satisfying.

Copyright 1995 Steve Rhodes

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