In continuing my quest to see as many of the 2016 Best Picture nominees as possible, I watched Brooklyn, which is nominated for 3 awards: Best Picture, Best Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay (it’s based on the novel by Colm Toibin).
Brooklyn tells the story of Eilis (pronounced Ay-lish) Lacey. In 1952, she is living in her small town of Enniscorthy in southeast Ireland and working for a mean woman named Miss Kelly who runs a general store, feeling like nothing is going her way and she has no life to speak of. Her older sister Rose has worked with a priest in New York to get her sponsored to go to the U.S. She takes the ship-ride over, getting sick on the way, and battling bunkmates for the bathroom. Arriving in New York, she moves into a boarding house with several other young Irish women, and starts working at a department store, despite her shy nature. Her housemates and new boss help her try to overcome her homesickness and general quiet demeanor.
The priest gets her enrolled in night bookkeeping courses to try to help with her sadness. Her housemates take her to a dance, where she meets a local boy from a huge Italian town, Tony. She and Tony begin dating, including a beach date to Coney Island.
She then (spoiler alert!) receives word from home that her sister has suddenly passed. She decides to go back and visit with her mother for a short time, and Tony is worried she won’t return to him, so they decide to quickly and quietly get married – but not tell anyone, they’ll tell everyone when she gets back.
So, she heads back to Ireland, where her mother swiftly starts in on the “I’m so alone here,” guilt trips, and has her write out her thank you notes for the sympathy cards. She tells Eilis that she will need to stay through her friend’s wedding, as she has already RSVPed for both of them – even though the wedding is a week after she was scheduled to head back. Eilis says okay, but you know I’m going to have to go back to America, which her mother basically ignores. Well, her engaged friend shows up to visit, and brings a young eligible bachelor with her to set Eilis up, and as much as Eilis tells her hey, I totally have a boyfriend back in America, and I’m going to back to him, everybody is all about hooking her up with this random dude, Jim. Incidentally, she does all the things with Jim that she did with Tony that won her over: dancing, beach dates, and dinner with his family – beach dates must have been a huge thing in the 50s.
On top of that, the place where her sister used to work calls her because they’re struggling without her sister, Rose. She says she can help them get the payroll in order, and they let her know next week they’ll have more for her. She reminds them that she has a job in America, but they’re not really interested in that and just keep handing her work. So – suddenly, Elis has her mom, a friend’s wedding, a boyfriend, and a job - all these situations which seem to conspire to try to keep Eilis in Ireland – showing her a future there that she couldn’t see when she was actually living there. However, the mean Miss Kelly shows back up, and for some reason that I couldn’t figure out, tells Eilis she knows Eilis is married and she’s going to tell everyone! Eilis says, yep – I’m totally married, and now I’m leaving here for real and heading back to America. She immediately says goodbye to her mother and leaves. And she seems to live happily ever after with Tony.
The movie is directed by John Crowley, and it does look lovely. I’m a little surprised they didn’t get a costuming nomination, as all the 50s clothes were pretty great – especially the scene where Eilis has to buy a bathing suit for the first time. The cast was great, and certainly fit the story.
- Saoirse Ronan (pronounced Sher-sha) is nominated as Best Actress – and yes, I think she deserves the nomination, as she definitely carried the movie. She does a good job of showing Eilis’s transformation from meek and shy girl to happy and determined woman.
- Fiona Glascott plays her sister Rose, who helps her get going on her life.
- Jim Broadbent plays Father Flood – the priest in America who sponsors her to come over.
- Jane Brennan plays her father, Mary – who tries to get her to stay in Ireland.
- Julie Walters (Mrs. Potter) plays Madge Keogh, the woman who is running the boarding house and who tries to keep all the ladies in line and behaving like proper 50s ladies. After all, how else will they ever find husbands? She actually was pretty hilarious, and made her parts of the movie really entertaining – I only wish the rest of the movie matched her tone.
- The ladies who play the other housemates are all pretty fun, but the only one I recognized was Emily Bett Rickards from Arrow. I couldn’t tell if she was supposed to be doing an Irish accent and was terrible at it, or if her character was American, and so had no accent – but all the other girls in the house were Irish…It was a little confusing. But hey – Felicity!
- Emory Cohen plays Tony, the local Italian plumber and he’s quick to woo Eilis. He also takes her over to his family’s house for dinner, which was pretty entertaining because since she had never had Italian food before, her housemates gave her a training session on how to eat pasta.
- Domhnall Gleeson plays the very eligible Jim Farrell, who Eilis’s friend sets her up with promptly upon her return to Ireland. He’s certainly nice, but I just kept thinking that Eilis should just head back to America and put a stop to all this.
Personally, I found the movie extremely boring. Really nothing happens – she comes to America, gets settled, head back to Ireland where everyone there tries to keep her there – then comes back to America. The end. I suppose the nuance is in the acting and the subtleties of the story. Like I said, the movie looks lovely, and everyone does a great job – I suppose it’s just not my cup of tea.
4 out of 10 – just too boring for me, but well-crafted. Julie Walters gets all the points for her hilarious dinner conversations.