As the year winds down and awards season ramps up it is common for our theaters to fill up with movies generally known as “Oscar bait.” The types of movies that contain sprawling epic tales of war and revenge or quieter, independent movies tackling IMPORTANT topics. And don’t get me wrong, I eat that shit up just like every other critic in the world, but it took the understated charm of Brooklyn to remind me that a movie that elicits joy can be just as good as those that cause sorrow.
And Brooklyn had plenty of opportunity to venture off into more “serious” film tropes. It’s an immigrant story, but it never delves too deep into the harsher welcomes many immigrants received in America. In fact, Ellis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) faces very little hardship once she arrives in America from Ireland. She has had lodging and work arranged for and finds many friendly faces in her mostly Irish neighborhood in Brooklyn. No, the conflict of the story isn’t an external one, but internal as she must determine what life will make her happiest.
Perhaps that is the secret for its success. It is a period piece and, while light, not a comedy, but in essence it is a coming of age story and everyone can relate to that, no matter how specific the events may seem. A large part of the credit for this feat should be given to screenwriter Nick Hornby. As with many of his other best loved stories (High Fidelity, About a Boy), Hornby is able to write love in the most heartwarming way without ever spilling into cliché.
It also helps that the entire film is gorgeous and Ronan delivers an exquisite performance, as does Emory Cohen as Tony, Ellis’ love interest. I have to believe that this film would be less charming by half if Cohen hadn’t been involved.
Coincidentally, the day before we saw Brooklyn we saw Trumbo wherein, spoiler alert, Dalton Trumbo wins an Oscar for writing Roman Holiday. After the movie I remarked to my boyfriend that it was crazy to think Roman Holiday won an Oscar. Not that it isn’t good, in fact its great, but because it can definitively be labeled a romantic comedy and it has been decades since anything labeled as such has won anything from The Academy.
Then here comes Brooklyn, which I wouldn’t call a comedy, but it is certainly much lighter than say Spotlight or The Revenant, and its garnering its fair share of buzz anyway. Perhaps everyone enjoyed the reminder that quality doesn’t always have to equal sad. [A]
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