When has a film been so tedious, so unimaginative, so stultifyingly boring that you decided life was too short to continue watching? I tend to want to finish what I start, not rely solely on first impressions and give things a chance to breathe and settle. I’m tolerant. But this week I encountered a film that was beyond even my broad Pale.
I’m not complaining. I’ve been lucky lately. I’ve seen Up In The Air this week (beautifully shot, very calming, George Clooney plays a corporate downsizer), Sherlock Holmes (a radical new approach to the franchise which works – full of action, humour, Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law), Astroboy (cartoon hero with machine guns in his butt – the 10-year-old boys I was with liked it) and Caramel (a Lebanese film by Nadine Labaki with no subtitles in English, but full of sympathetic characters and a good trick with a telephone conversation).
But my good run has just come to an end. Drowned in Holy Water. It’s a new Oirish film set in a dead-end Ballygobackwards-type village. It begins with an uilleann piper topping himself because he’s unrequited in love with a boney arsed auld tease. His jump from the cliff edge is a relief to us all, in that it cuts short the least tuneful uilleann droning I’ve ever heard. It was almost as bad as Scottish bagpipery.
The basic story is that four hopeless blokes despair of getting laid, or getting any action of any kind in their declining village. So they plot a heist – to steal a very valuable truckload of Viagra. It goes wrong. They dump the load in the local holy well. The hapless local police are, well, hapless in an Oirish way. And a security specialist – played by Linda Hamilton – is called in.
Yes. The Linda Hamilton. The one who played Sarah Connor in Terminator. The one who terminated Arnie. The icon. What on earth is she doing in this?
So why don’t I like Holy Water? Why could I simply not endure a moment longer?
Well, there’s the general tweeness. The obligatory plaintive music and tortured uilleannanity. Bad accents. Unconvincing minor players. No sense of place. A character drives his An Post van to Belfast airport, where Her Majesty’s Customs and Excise personnel are overseeing Viagra being unloaded for export.
Hold on a minute. What’s a local post office van from the Republic of Ireland doing crossing the international frontier to hang around Belfast airport in Northern Ireland? Maybe the driver got lost, just like the driver of the Viagra truck. Viagra is manufactured in Cork, a county on the south coast of Ireland. To get to Belfast airport, you have to drive almost the length of the island, passing a number of international airports and crossing that same international frontier. (Come to think of it there was a diversion on the lane. That’ll explain it.)
But c’mon! It’s a laugh surely. Viagra, the sex drug, contaminating the local water supply in sexually repressed Ireland. “Make mine a stiff one, bartender!” Thick Irish cops. An arrogant American blow-in. What’s not to like?
Well, apart from all the above, the main problem is the absence of laughs. (With one exception. See bottom. Ooer, Missus!) The predictable, lame, cliched plot doesn’t help either.
But how can I talk? Not having seen it all.
True. Though I did see some excerpts. Then before starting at the beginning I had the pleasure to bump into Linda Hamilton. That gave me renewed hope.
She’s smaller than I expected. Perhaps her fearsome reputation preceded her. She’s funny, attractive and interesting. Most of all when chatting frankly about her bi-polar mental health problem, and the havoc it wreaked on her two marriages. I guess a bi-polar condition is not something you ever leave behind completely, but she seemed very self-aware and together.
And she doesn’t mind being teased a little. Like when she was asked how she enjoyed being in Ireland to make the film? And how welcome was she made by the locals? And if they really took her to their hearts?
Because, of course, they didn’t even make the film in Ireland. They shot it in Devon. (Whatever happened to all those incentives for film makers in the Republic of Ireland?)
And it’s not just me who’s cross. The Isle of Man Film Board must be ripping. They consider themselves as number one stand-in for Ireland when it comes to films. (You may remember Waking Ned, or in the United States, Waking Ned Devine. Also a bit twee. But far better.)
OK. I’ll be honest. It’s not the first time I’ve bailed out before the final frame. My stomach ordered me to make a quick dash for air part of the way through David Cronenberg’s Videodrome many years ago. Must have been a bit of food poisoning. Not the torture, suddenly erupting tumours and pulsating gaping wounds. Perhaps it was Debbie Harry’s sadomasochistic psychiatrist. Steamy lady. That’ll have been it. Just a bit hot in the auditorium.
And I once woke up with a crowd around me during Flatliners in the Curzon on Belfast’s Ormeau Road. It was my skull colliding with the floor of the cinema that bounced me back into consciousness I recall. Luckily I was with a nurse at the time. She was sympathetic and didn’t mind retiring to the pub. I seem to remember neither were too keen on hospitals, tubes, smells, needles and all that paraphernalia.
But neither of those incidents were due to boredom. And it hasn’t happened since. I thought I had toughened up. I thought my carapace had grown thick enough to withstand whatever my curiosity threw at it. Until I stumbled into Holy Water. (Shudder.)
One last thing. The funny line. One of the desperate blokes bemoans his celibacy: “The only way I’ll get laid in this parish is if I climb up a chicken’s arse and wait.”
Linda Hamilton must be raging. One funny line. And they give it to someone else.