Movie Review: Brooklyn

“Brooklyn” is one of those movies to which you can herd your holiday guests of various ages into the car and drive to the local Cineplex to see (though some depending on age and gender may be bored stiff), and not have to worry about having any kind of uncomfortable debate on the way home. It contains no objectionable language (that I can remember), and the lights are discreetly dimmed before the main character and her boyfriend can get completely undressed, when they finally give in to temptation.

In the film, Saoirse Ronan plays a young Irish woman in the 1950’s, who finds a way to escape from her browbeaten existence, when her older sister and a priest arrange for her to move to Brooklyn, take a job in an upscale department store as a shopgirl, and live in a boarding house full of catty single ladies, presided over by Julie Walters. We can tell right off the bat that Saoirse is unschooled in the ways of men because she is wearing very little makeup and when asked what she uses on her skin, replies, “Soap. At night.” She also makes every mistake you can on her maiden voyage to America, such as eating a hearty meal her first night and neglecting to hammer out bathroom negotiations with her neighbors, but she does find another young woman who gives her valuable advice on going through Customs, i.e. “Look like you know where you’re going,” and makes it to Brooklyn in one piece.

Unfortunately, Saoirse is walloped by homesickness right from the start, and even breaks into tears when she’s at the department store waiting on a customer. Fortunately, her boss is understanding and finds a local priest (Jim Broadbent) who takes her under his wing and enrolls her in a bookkeeping course at a college. Her ambition, we learn then, is to eventually become an accountant like her older sister, so this is a start. She begins to come out of her shell, volunteering to do charity work on the holidays and finally managing to say a few words in response to a young man who tries to start a conversation when they meet at school. She has more luck finding love when she attends an Irish dance and meets a nice plumber named Joe (Emory Cohen). Joe turns out to be (gasp) Italian, but they hit it off, until there is the necessary tragedy that forces Saoirse to return to Ireland, where she meets another nice guy (Domhnall Gleeson) and then things get even more complicated. But in the end, it basically comes down to: will she stay or will she go?

This is the kind of movie which could have been dramatically shortened if the heroine had chosen to be honest, but then there wouldn’t be much conflict. The scenery in the film is gorgeous and made me want to take a vacation to Ireland. The leading actress is also attractive, which is good, because there are endless shots of her in close-up looking plucky and resolute. Julie Walters is also a hoot as the boarding house matron who tries, with varying degrees of success, to teach life lessons to her charges; the set-up could almost be spun off into its own sitcom. There was no one in my theater when I saw this, but it’s a nice movie to sneak into if you’re looking for a change of pace from movies like “Krampus.”

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