Brooklyn is Beautiful Yet Bland

tumblr_inline_nxyule2hjN1sf9ct2_5403star“Home is home.”

One day the sun will come out, and you’ll realize that this is where your life is. At least that’s what Brooklyn is trying to tell us, but despite its beauty and poetic charm, the movie falls flat for a film considered one of the year’s best.

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Brooklyn is a cinematic art piece on screen, and it tugs at all the right emotions. Irish director John Crowley paints a portrait of a girl most of us (in some way) can relate to–what it feels like to be homesick and the bittersweet emotional complexities of life on foreign soil. I felt immersed in the lush green and  sullen gray landscapes of Ireland and the vibrant shades of New York, but why do I feel like I’ve forgotten the film so quickly after watching it? With its beautiful cinematography, genuine dialogue and heartfelt characters, why has Brooklyn left me feeling empty?

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Brooklyn embodies the majority of the films I’ve seen this year–absolutely beautiful on the exterior, but too hollow to suffice. I feel compelled to relate to the themes of loneliness and the bitter regret of leaving home, but the plot is pretty procedural. Without dipping their toes too deep, Brooklyn treads lightly on cliché territory. I’m trying to imagine the endless possibilities of direction this plot could have shifted toward, but still remain stumped as to what could have salvaged this movie from being just good to absolutely unforgettable.

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Based on a script by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Nick Hornby (An Education) — in turn adapted from the Colm Toibin  novel — Brooklyn follows Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan), a young girl from a small town in Ireland during the 1950s, who travels to the United States in hopes of a better future.  Eilis’s older sister Rose has arranged for her to go to Brooklyn to live in an Irish boarding house and work at a department store. At an Irish dance, Eilis meets Tony (Emory Cohen), a charming Italian fella, and the two eventually begin a relationship together. The romance is sweet, but the plot becomes far too transparent and never builds any real tension or passion.

At about the film’s midway point, Eilis is called back home to deal with a family tragedy and returns home to Ireland. Here she meets a handsome Irish man and is torn between two men and two homes.

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“The third section back in Ireland has the most steadicam, and there’s a dreamy quality to it. Saoirse’s character’s gone back home, and to this smaller world, they look at her as a little bit glamorous and she sees them differently too. When she’s on the beach and she’s chatting with [Domhnall Gleeson’s character], she goes, ‘I wish it was like this before I went.’ She’s talking about a job and the possibility of a boyfriend. It reminds me of ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ where they’re going through the poppy field, and they all get a bit sleepy for a moment, and it’s like, ‘You can’t! Wake up, wake up, wake up!’ And that’s partly where the pressure in that part of the film comes from, is we’re always like, ‘What are you doing?’ Because we know she’s not being honest with herself about what she’s already found in America, in Tony.” via Indiewire

Something that can absolutely be taken away from with this movie is the movie’s greatest asset, Saoirse Ronan, who has quietly been on the rise for years now. And she’s only 21-years-old!

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In 2008, at the age of 13, she became the seventh youngest actress to be nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Atonement (2007).

Saoirse Ronan is one to watch, and she boasts an Oscar nomination with this performance, but I just wanted a little more from Brooklyn. I wanted to feel the triumph of self-growth, like in An Education, and the ache of separation, like in Like Crazy. To me Brooklyn is a vintage homage of these two movies, but doesn’t quite pack as much punch.

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14 thoughts on “Brooklyn is Beautiful Yet Bland

  1. This film is getting an insane amount of praise to the point it’s going to make people believe it’s a masterpiece, which I doubt it is. I see it mainly as a performance-driven awards film. I like you give your honest opinion, I haven’t seen it yet. Saoirse Ronan is growing up in front of our eyes!

  2. I found much more from this film.. I felt the growth in between the lines but I’m not surprised you might have wanted more. It’s a very.. subjective theme in a way, like, going far away from home and becoming your own person, it’s not such an obvious change sometimes, and I feel like that was the case with Eilis.

    Nice review and don’t feel bad about saying bad things about a good movie. I have not written bad reviews of movies everybody loved and now I regret it because I can’t remember the reasoning behind my dislike and would be great to look back at those little thoughts years later!

    • Yes, and I unfortunately wasn’t enthralled with Room either (I’m just not feeling this year in general). My vote goes Blanchett for Carol>Ronan>Larson. Larson is good, but I just don’t think it’s a game-changing performance. Unpopular opinion though.

  3. I’m sorry this didn’t work better for you. I loved it, I thought it perfectly captured the charm of the book and I really like Eilis as a character. I found her very relatable.

  4. Nice review – I haven’t seen Brooklyn yet, but a part of me already agrees with your review. When I saw the poster earlier this summer, it looked lush and beautiful but I kinda also felt like it was going to be a hollow story – if that makes sense. I’m hoping when I do see it I’ll feel differently, but I’m not quite sure yet….

  5. I actually don’t see it as bland at all. Yes it’s a simple story and perhaps the ending seems too rushed and even *neat* but I find it engrossing in its simplicity. No it’s not a masterpiece but a memorable and beautifully-crafted character-driven film. Glad you agree about Saoirse though, who is no doubt a fantastic young actress who seems to get better with age.

  6. I thought it was really good when I just watched it, but now in retrospect I agree with what you’re saying. I still think it’s layered, just not as good as I thought it was before.

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