Saturday, November 28, 2015

Brooklyn (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


 "Brooklyn" by director John Crowley is a conceptual time capsule and a tribute to the affectionate and spirited films of the 1950s. With its generous rolling sweeps of the camera, it is as authentic as it is moving.

In a 1952 Ireland, Eilis Lacey (Saoirse Ronan) an inquisitive young girl, has a chance to go to America, with the hopes for better opportunities.  She boards a passenger ship but immediately becomes ill, due to increasingly rough seas.

Eilis makes the crossing, and takes a job at a huge gold-toned department store in Brooklyn but becomes the outcast. She endures crippling homesickness, and is endlessly under the judgment of a gray flannel gaze. She is sarcastically treated by her boss, Miss Fortini (Jessica Pare) and a pair of Waspy girls (Emily Bett Rickerts and Nora-Jane Noone.)

While playing at being a chaperone, Eilis meets the street-smart but sweet American Tony (Emory Cohen), who bears a resemblance to Bobby Darin or a young Dion. Tony is immediately hooked and so is Eilis.

Tensions rise with melodrama in Ireland juxtaposed against a kind of fairy tale Brooklyn with shiny cars, movie theaters and madras shirts, underscoring the existence of Eilis as "the other," unsure of her emotions and not knowing whether to laugh or cry. The apprehension is soon at its height.

Ronan is neither weepy nor ecstatic in her role. Rather she opts for pitch perfect authenticity as a visitor in a strange, over-confident planet known as Brooklyn. The actor has the diversity to be unassuming as well as to portray a girl next store sensuality akin to Maureen O Hara in John Ford's "The Quiet Man."

Both Jim Broadbent and Julie Walters show well as a priest and a tough boardinghouse head, respectively. In this story, Brooklyn becomes more of an abstract place pointing to the heart of a young man rather than a literal borough.

John Crowley has given us a rich, colorful and gentle film that is easy on the eyes, but by no means a trifle.  While playing on the old Hollywood of Douglas Sirk or the aforementioned John Ford, the director delivers an amiable antidote of innocence that stands in contrast to our current state of immigrant paranoia and outright fear.

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