Published Mar 17, 2011For a film that intends to recreate the exciting atmosphere of '70s Brooklyn and the concurrent rock'n'roll scene, it's let down by an unbecoming soundtrack and a superficial sense of nostalgia.
White Irish Drinkers is a semi-autobiographical story set in 1975; it is a classic coming-of-age tale of two diametrically opposed brothers. Younger brother Brian is the sensitive artistic type who aspires to go to college despite the apparent lack of motivation and career endeavours of his friends. Whereas older brother Danny is a hard-edged, wannabe thug who wreaks havoc on the town by engaging in criminal acts while also harassing Brian for his artistic passion.
Brian spends his free time drawing and painting in the basement storage room of his parents' apartment building, working at a rundown movie theatre, and stripping through graveyards with his sexually deviant love interest. The duo share a memorable sex scene in his "studio," which is unfortunately ruined by the unsuited soundtrack.
Danny spends his time breaking the law, robbing jewellery stores and committing excessive criminal acts to try to make enough money to leave the neighbourhood. Brian, also trying to make a buck, works at the dilapidated cinema and convinces his boss, Whitey, that he should hold rock'n'roll concerts in the theatre to draw a larger crowd. By utilizing some former connections, Brian is able to bring in the Rolling Stones, an unheard of feat for Brooklyn at the time.
While it may be Brian's only chance to shine and eventually outrun the constraints of the apathetic working class society and escape his tortured household, run by his abrasive alcoholic father, Danny's reckless criminal behaviour threatens his aspirations.
Though the film rests on a solid, dramatic, familial plot, with moments of authentic sentimentality, the dialogue includes various unnecessary clichés. Further, nothing about the film's aesthetic, aside from the establishing shots of the decrepit bars with tacky signage, indicates its positioning in the '70s era.
The film's young cast is promising and Karen Allen is phenomenal as Danny and Brian's mother, trapped in an abusive marriage. She still has the girlish charm and courage she became famous for in Raiders of the Lost Ark. However, the script and staging needed a little more finesse. (Mongrel Media)