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IN SHORT: Dead in a week.
As always, Cranky makes no comparison to the source material.
Cranky saw Dancing At Lughnasa in advance at a private screening, cuz he's heard buzz about Meryl Streep's performance (all in the same breath with the name of a certain golden guy), and 'cuz I was set to interview the cast for this website. That cast includes Catherine McCormack whose fans, male and female, have made themselves known on the message boards. Onwards...
The weather has turned cold. The nominations deadline is approaching. A Tony-award winning play comes to the big screen and Meryl Streep does an accent. It's worked before but it's difficult to fathom here. Dancing At Lughnasa, set in Ireland in the summer of 1936, is the story of five sisters in a town where virtually all of the eligible men have left, or have become priests. It is told to us in a retrospective voiceover by one of their children, now grown up. For him, it was to be the most memorable summer in his life. For us, it is more like 90 minutes that feels like three hours.
Kate Mundy (Streep) is a controlling, old-maid schoolteacher. Maggie (Kathy Burke) is a chain smoker whose potential boyfriend shipped off to Australia. Agnes (Brid Brennan) is so quiet you'd barely know she was around; Rosie (Sophie Thompson) is "simple" and in total denial that she is being courted by a married man. Christina (McCormack) is the unmarried mother of the eight year old Michael (Darrell Johnston) who, as an off-screen adult, narrates the story. His father, Gerry Evans (Rhys Ifans), who hasn't been around enough for Michael to even recognize him, appears out of nowhere. Simultaneously, a tetched in the head missionary uncle (Michael Gambon) returns from Africa. They're all crowded in to a tiny home, isolated by distance and disgrace from the rest of the town.
The title is taken from a Celtic pagan celebration for Lugh, the Goddess of music and light. The five sisters are all Catholic, Kate doesn't even like her sisters singing "pagan songs" that's how tight she is. When Rosie runs off with her married beau to the festival, well you know a conflict is a-coming. How is it that these events affect Michael, to comprise the most memorable summer of his life? Heck if I know. The boy who is telling the story has too small piece in it to really matter.
There's more story here than would be humanly possible to tell in Dancing At Lughnasa's fairly compact 90 minutes. Trying to squeeze it all in makes it feel like three hours, though. What is on-screen is the equivalent of a character study with no overpowering story to make all the characters come alive. Two of the five sisters are so in the background that their identities were easy to confuse. Streep, McCormack and Thompson's roles are all fairly clear. The problem is not performance, and it's not a lack of things to perform. Something else is missing. My gut feeling is that it is something cultural, something that makes the act of dancing significant to the other stories that are trying to be told. It's either that or gender miscommunication. No, it's that. You can read all about in Cranky's interview with stars Catherine McCormack and Brid Brennan -- who won a Tony when she brought the role to Broadway. Click here Cranky sat through Dancing At Lughnasa absolutely bored silly. If something was happening in these women's lives that should have rung a bell with this male breeder, I missed it.
On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Dancing At Lughnasa,he would have paid . . .
If you must, wait and rent.
ADDENDUM: The Dancing is a metaphor for the release of pent up emotion and repression that all the women feel, say the cast and director. Knowing that before you step into the theater puts you a leg up on Cranky, so click here for his chat with stars Catherine McCormack and Brid Brennan.
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