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Two views on Brothers: good time or no real value

The Brothers McMullen

Directed by Edward Burns.

Written by Edward Burns.

Starring Edward Burns, Mike McGlone, and Jack Mulcahy.

Produced by Edward Burns and Dick Fisher.

Music by Seamus Egan.

Sony Harvard Square.

By Rob Wagner and Audrey Wu

Reviewers Audrey Wu and Rob Wagner offer a he said/she said look at Edward Burns' new film, The Brothers McMullen.


The Brothers McMullen traces a brief period in the lives of three Irish Catholic brothers, all of whom are struggling with their romantic relationships. Impressively, though, the film addresses such time-honored themes as insecurity and fear of committment from a male - not the typical female - point of view. In addition, the film is a refreshingky no-frills type of movie. It offers just frank, oftentimes humorous talk by the brothers about their perspectives on their relationships.

Patrick (Mike McGlone), the youngest brother, has just graduated from college and is not yet ready to face the world outside the confines of his college. "I never thought college would actually end. I'm not ready to move out of my dorm." His problem is with his longtime girlfriend, a stereotypical Jewish American princess named Susan, who is pressuring Patrick into marrying her after they graduate and has already arranged for him to be working for her father.

She is an interesting match for Patrick, who is a devout (well, trying to be) Catholic, and has no qualms about manipulating him when it becomes clear that he wants out of the relationship. In his conversations with his brothers, Patrick says a line that most young adults have said at one time: "I love her, but I'm not in love with her." A romantic believer in soul mates, Patrick knows Susan is not "the one," but is too afraid of the alternatives to completely break things off with her.

Barry (writer/director Edward Burns), the middle brother, has similar fears. He is terrified of committing to any woman. His older brother Jack (Jack Mulcahy) accuses him of being too much of an idealist: "To you," Jack tells him, "the grass is always greener on the other side. Or thinner. Or taller. Or has bigger [breasts]," to which Barry replies, "or hopefully, all three."

Barry is every woman's nightmare: incredibly good-looking and charming, but a huge heartbreaker. Women believe that they can change his anti-love, anti-commitment attitude, but find out they can't. However, things get interesting when he meets and falls in love with Audrey.

Jack is married and both loves and is in love with his wife. But things get interesting for him too: He screws up when Ann, an ex-girlfriend of Barry's, propositions him and he is unable to contain his lust. The movie explores the changes in the relationship of Jack with his wife, Molly, during and after his affair.

Overall, I was very impressed by film. I thought that it was very humorous and did an excellent job of presenting the different perspectives on relationships that the three brothers had. It was a very believable film. What I found most impressive was that it was obviously done on a very low budget: no big actors, and film quality not much better than your family's camcorder. Instead of theatrics, the viewer could then focus on things that are often overlooked in movies: an intriguing plot and great dialogue - not to be missed is Barry's banana metaphor.

The movie was like taking a peek into the brother's lives, and the movie also never gets too profound so it's not like you're being forced into the brothers' heads. You walk away from it at least understanding the brothers, and everyone can relate to them in some way. But don't look for this film to answer all your questions about your relationship problems, and don't look for random insight into the male psyche. The Brothers McMullen is just a good time; you should be able to relate to it.


Well, I'll agree that it doesn't get too profound; certainly, that much can be said. The dialogue is far too contrived to get profound. I found myself forgetting the names of the characters, but I could always catch them again, since they addressed each other by name in a most unnatural way, so as to remind the audience of the names.

This film is ostensibly about the plight of Irish Catholics in today's society, but only one of the brothers is even remotely religious. With hardly any mention of distinctly Catholic subjects, this lightweight strictly-verbal comedy is mere fluff trying to attract attention by playing on the Irish Catholic theme, which it doesn't really deal with.

Writer, director, co-producer, and star Edward Burns said that the film was about the dilemnas of Irish Catholics in today's society, choosing between Jesus and sex. The film, however, deals only in passing with this religious dilemma. Instead, it deals with more general dilemmas of living in today's society, such as premarital sex, abortion, commitment, and adultery, issues not specific to Catholicism. And the film does not deal at all with the upbringing of the brothers except for their hatred of their father.

Jack, the faithful loving husband, suddenly changes his loyal ways and has an affair without any real reason for the change. He resists at first, saying that he loves his wife too much, but then goes through with it without displaying any visible psychological change. It's just not very believable. To this end, it didn't help that he looks like Joey Buttafuoco and lives on Long Island.

The film is about three brothers, whose common bond is their hatred of their "wife-beating, child-abusing, alcoholic father," and who remember his sayings, such as, "All I want to hear from you is nothing!" and "Shut your mouth when you're talking to me!" Their mother had waited 35 years for her husband to die before she could finally return to Ireland to marry her true love. She makes Barry promise not to make a similar mistake.

Perhaps a result of his mother's example, Barry just can't commit himself to one woman. Even when he falls in love, he just can't make himself commit. He is indeed just too scared to change.

But the film suffers from abandoning its setting. There is nothing distinctly Irish about the brothers. "Luck of the Irish" is mentioned only once, as is Barry's "phony Irish charm," but there's nothing definitely Irish about them.

There is no distinctly Catholic theme to this film, either. In addition, only two conversations echo Irish themes - a parley about some tenets of Catholicism which prevent a healthy sex life and an argument about abortion between Patrick and his Jewish ex-fiance.

So, there is nothing that makes this film about the Irish Catholic experience, despite what Edward Burns says. This is merely a talky crap film that was made on a low budget. Though it did have some funny lines and a few hilarious situations, The Brothers McMullen is merely a talky film trying to allow the audience to relate to supposed real-life situations.

0n what seems to be a growing trend in entertainment today, this film has realism in its script but no real value to the audience. The audience merely finds out about the lives of different people. When Igo to see a movie, Iwant to see robots that turn into cars, a giant gorilla wreaking havoc on a city, immortals who fight with swords, or even the adventures of a killer whale. Anything but ordinary people in ordinary situations.

Though it did have some snappy dialogue - enough to win Best Picture at the Sundance Film Festival, in fact - The Brothers McMullen is just plain ordinary, with no real entertainment value.