Nine Times Hollywood Tried to Be Irish…and Failed
We all know the drill, March 17th comes around and everyone is poring over their family trees trying to find one Irish branch, somewhere, that justifies them joining in the St. Paddy’s Day festivities. There is nothing to say one shouldn’t be proud of any ounce of Irish heritage in a family’s history, but using that ounce as an excuse to carry on embarrassing Americanized behavior is, to say the least, embarrassing. But ‘Kiss Me I’m Irish’ T-shirts and getting plastered on American water-beer and Irish Car Bombs (yes it’s offensive) aren’t the only sins that have been committed on this sacred feast day.
Hollywood is no stranger to jumping on bandwagons to make a quick buck and they make no exception when capitalizing on Irish history and culture; from their penchant for getting Scottish actors to play the Irish (the accent is close enough right?) to perpetuating the old Irish stereotypes with big, poor, Irish families or fighting Irish drunks. For those of us that aren’t Irish, let’s at least re-educate ourselves and blow the lid off of some of these movies that you might otherwise have been tempted to pull out to celebrate ol’ Padraig. We have to admit to having a couple of favorites on the list, so we’re not perfect either. But we’re all in this together, eh?
Nine Times Hollywood Tried to Be Irish…and Failed
P.S. I Love You
This one is just a painful disappointment all around. We have Gerard Butler, ye olde Scottish dude, trying and failing for that Irish brogue for which he publicly apologized afterward. On top of that, there are so many awkward acting moments between Butler and Swank riddled throughout that we lost count. The ineffable Kathy Bates couldn’t even save this one. What makes it more of a shame is that it’s based on a book by Irish author Cecelia Ahern, so while much of it might have actually been a beautiful tribute to the emerald isle, the two main actors playing Irishmen are not, in fact, Irish. Which seems sacrilegious. One of the more grating traits of Butler’s character, Gerry, is that “loveable Irish scoundrel” thing he’s going for – you can almost see him pop a blood vessel trying to force a twinkle to come to his eye. Granted a lot of rom-coms, Irish or not, could be accused of such tactics, but we raise an eyebrow at any silly rom-com girl so easily swept off her feet by a complete stranger conning her for a kiss.[Scarlet]
Bruce Willis’s horrid moustache (and other various costume changes) and Diane Venora’s over-the-top Russian accent make this film one of the silliest action thrillers made. Pretty-boy Richard Gere as an ex-IRA sniper with an iffy accent really rounds out the circus that is The Jackal quite nicely though. Gere seems to insert a fair amount of charm into all his characters—the man’s just charismatic—but where his usual gleam-of-the-eye plays out as endearing, here it translates roughly to the equivalent of an action movie version of the Lucky Charms mascot. It’s not really his fault. In the ’90s the Irish and Russians were just the en vogue badasses and villains of the time. It’s not like we could have expected Hollywood to cast actual Irish or Russian actors. Oh, the horror. [Ananda]
Gangs of New York
A lot is wrong with Scorsese’s epic letdown Gangs of New York, but few bother me more than the casting of Cameron Diaz. A fantastic Daniel Day-Lewis as well as some fine supporting performances from Brendan Gleeson and John C. Reilly are not enough to make up for a sub-par DiCaprio and flat-out awful Diaz. Like a poor cutaway joke from Family Guy, you can just picture Diaz looking in the mirror after putting on a curly, red-haired wig before doing a vaguely Irish accent and exclaiming “nailed it!” It’s a shame Scorsese (due to studio pressure) was unable to cast his first choice of Sarah Polley. [Ryan]
Far and Away
Tom Cruise, more often than not, plays Tom Cruise. From time to time, this Cruise version of Cruise is pretty fun (i.e. the Mission: Impossible series), and other times it’s almost impossible not to laugh out loud. Odds are when Far And Away was released back in ‘92, people hadn’t yet grown weary of his trademark grin and boundless energy (this is way before his couch jumping days), but now, in retrospect, this little gem of a film is mostly a bad accent contest between him and costar/chemistry-less wife, Nicole Kidman. Here Cruise plays a sometimes-Irish-Cruise fighting to make it in America, his accent slipping off and on in the space between words, and even at its best sounds more like a harsh whisper. So, if you are looking to laugh at some Americans acting like Irishmen coming to America, this film might be perfect for your St. Paddy’s day—even if it’s only real joy is its kickass Super 65mm format (the same as The Master). [Gary]
The Quiet Man
There are many things to love about John Ford’s The Quiet Man. For instance, it is one of the few Hollywood movies where the Irish language can be heard, being that many of the extras were actually from the countryside of County Galway and County Mayo where the movie was mainly filmed. Its scenic landscapes make it an especially exquisite painting of Ireland in Technicolor, which was rare for Republic pictures. It is not without its faults, however. Though it garnered substantial financial success with both American and British audiences, it was not well received in Ireland when it was first released; especially in Mayo and Galway by those native to the counties. Most significantly were the negative reactions to the scenes that are the most controversial today: John Wayne dragging Maureen O’Hara across the hills in a mare-breaking sort of way or the time he’s offered a stick by a neighbor with which to beat her. But there is also the purposeful re-imagining of an Ireland untouched by the garish obscenities brought about by the violent oppression of British rule and Ford, perhaps naively, paints a picture of a lovingly tolerant community with no divisions or hints at political unrest, except maybe that which occurs between a husband and wife. This idyllic conjuring could be upsetting to those who would see it less as a true to life telling and more as America turning a blind eye to their very real plight. [Scarlet]
Here we have Hollywood taking an actual Irish historical legend in Michael Collins and giving it a good shakedown. A noble subject and an intense period of Irish history that everyone should be familiar with, actual historical inaccuracies do abound within the film, which offer a tainted view of what actually happened. There are also many poor accents here as well, most notably that of Hollywood favorite, Julia Roberts. Liam Neeson is Irish-born and gives an impassioned performance even though it’s never easy for a 44 year old man to pass off as 25. We’ll give Aidan Quinn an out since he has some Irish ancestry as well, and we could never fault a movie for casting Alan Rickman, non-Irishman though he may be and though his accent received much criticism as well. It is considered perhaps an essential watch if one were to need to freshen up on a vague sense of Irish history before traveling to said country, and it’s really hard to knock it when it was written and directed by Bligo-born Neil Jordan. However, it was one of the most successful films ever released in Ireland, herself, so it wouldn’t be too off color to watch on this day…with an actual history book by your side as a supplement. [Scarlet]
Darby O’Gill and The Little People
One of the first times Hollywood hijacked and bastardized the traditional legend of the Irish leprechaun via this Disney classic, it’s also another perpetrator of the time-honored tradition of the Scotsman-playing-Irish debacle. Sean Connery is always lovely to look at and equally lovely to listen to (except maybe whilst singing) and I’m sure Disney was banking on that goodness to distract everyone from his unfortunate attempt at the brogue. We won’t say you can’t still indulge in this fanciful twisting of Irish culture and folklore, but know that it hardly qualifies as authentic. [Scarlet]
While Warwick Davis is one of our absolute favorites, and one can’t help but be impressed that he has held on for so long to this steadfast addition to the horror franchise collective, Davis’ Irish accent leaves one less than impressed. Not to mention the fact that the entire premise of the films center around a flagrant disregard for the actual historical mythical tradition surrounding the leprechaun. The first film for both Jennifer Aniston and Trimark, the video of it has sold less than 100,000 copies. The series in general still tends to be well watched for Halloween and St. Paddy’s day which only goes to show our never-quenched thirst for camp in this country. It’s not something we would promote, however, except maybe after several pints of the black stuff. Sláinte! [Scarlet]
This movie received several poor reviews for its pat stereotypes and rom-com clichés, despite the endearing appeal of its ever charming star, Amy Adams. A.O. Scott of The New York Times is quoted as saying it was, “witless, charmless, and unimaginative” while Richard Roeper said it had a “recycled plot, lame sight gags, [and] leprechaun-like stock characters.” With several geographical inaccuracies throughout, they couldn’t have been expecting viewers to ever have been to Ireland in real life. Most damning of all the evidence against this film, however, is the review given by Donald Clarke of the Irish Times who said, following his viewing, that “Hollywood is incapable of seeing the Irish as anything but IRA men or twinkly rural imbeciles” and described it as “offensive, reactionary, patronising filth”. And this was only made five years ago! We would say that you could watch this one only in the dark recesses of your own home with all of the doors and windows locked and covered – and tell no one. [Scarlet]
Just so we’re not raining on everyone’s St. Patrick’s Day parade, we do have a few movies you COULD unashamedly watch on March 17th without feeling the need to refrain from posting it as your Facebook status:
My Left Foot
Waking Ned Devine
In the Name of the Father
Netflix’s Peaky Blinders
Éirinn go Brách!