‘Brooklyn’ is flavorless and unremarkable

by Simon Williams on November 27, 2015

in Print Reviews,Reviews

[Minor Rock Fist Down]

I was excited for John Crowley’s Brooklyn as I stepped into the theater. The material seemed interesting, the trailer compelling, and the idea of Saoirse Ronan performing a Nick Hornby-penned script was enticing. With great reviews, I sat down with a friend and prepared myself for what I hoped would be quite the experience.

Fast-forward two hours: I stepped out of a theater having essentially nothing to say.

This is a problem. Coming right off the heels of Blue Sky’s new Peanuts film, I really wanted something to sink my teeth into, good or bad. Something I’d be able to say something about beyond “ehh”. If this were a modern classic featuring stellar performances and a powerful story, I’d come to my word processor with the joy of a child. If it were an overrated heap of complete and utter garbage, I’d sing hatred to the heavens like the cynical twentysomething I am. Sadly, it is merely mediocre.

“Oscar Bait” is a term thrown around a lot toward many targets, but I would like to offer a more specific definition as to make my discussion a tad more precise. Oscar Bait, as far as this critic is concerned, refers to a breed of middle-of-the-road cinema, aimed at a demographic aged between 45 to 70, that touches on some sort of “issue”, stars either older venerated performers or young up-and-comers, that is made with almost the express purpose of gaining the producers an accumulation of foot-high statues. English accents, period settings and crisp colors are frequent tropes of these films. They are never too controversial or graphic, as that would make the audience uncomfortable. Last year’s The Theory of Everything is a fabulous example of this phenomenon.

However most of these films are at least polished. Their editing is sharp, their cinematography uniformly soft and colorful, and their high-caliber casts flaunted liberally.

Brooklyn is indeed Oscar Bait, but a poorly manufactured one. The costumes all look fake. The technical acuity is beneath that of some student films. The plot is so episodic and meandering that it’s hard to gauge how much time you’re wasting watching it. If not for the current Rotten Tomatoes rating, I would think this thing would be doomed to a life on TV and be totally forgotten by all but grandmothers and those who helped make it. It doesn’t even do us the pleasure of being particularly bad. It’s mildly likeable, in fact, Nick Hornby’s charm occasionally seeping through the script. But it’s cinematic pea soup. It’s groggy, flavorless and utterly unremarkable.

My best suggestion? Steve Jobs is still in a few theaters. As messy and awkward as that film may be, at least it’s worth talking about. Maybe go see Sicario. It’s massively depressing but intelligent and well made. Or The Martian. Rent Mad Max or Love and Mercy or just wait for Spotlight to go on wide release. Don’t spend your money on this. There are better ways to spend two hours.

Simon Williams

Simon Williams is a media critic and filmmaker originally from Columbus Ohio. He makes short films about sad people who don’t speak their minds because he himself is a sad person who does not have that issue.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Candice Frederick November 28, 2015 at 3:28 pm

totally agree, except I think this year was filled with duds like this one

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