Monday, April 14, 2014

My Own Private Calvary

Stuck in town between appointments I make for my favourite refuge the IFI. The only suitable option was Calvary and as I'd been mildly diverted by The Guard by the same director (John Michael McDonagh) I decided to give it a try. Now this is crucial: I went in early to claim a decent seat so I'm sitting in the middle of the middle row - in a crowded cinema.

It starts badly with the opening lines meant to shock us into compliant attentiveness. We've heard all this stuff about clerical sexual abuse ad nauseam so we don't need it shoved down our throats again. This the film does in a way that might have been shocking 20 years ago but now seems tedious with a nasty edge. We get it.

I realise it's not meant to be realistic in a Ken Loach or Mike Leigh way but black farce needs some vague connection with actuality.  Let's count the ways this does not. The local Garda sergeant has a rent boy staying with him in full public view. The local doctor, who also seems to be the coroner, flicks his cigarettes away like a character from Love Hate and snorts coke in public toilets. He's played by Aidan Gillen who seems to have retained some tics from that series.  The cheeky wine-swilling altar boy is also a plein air painter - complete with easel.  Dylan Moran playing a fat cat with a conscience has a permanent look of embarrassment on his face - or maybe that's him acting.  The scene of him pissing on the expensive painting is plain silly and unlikely on many levels. The only coloured man in the village is cutting a swathe through the local girls and arrogantly dismisses the priest's blandishments. The gorgeous good time girl is married to the ugly butcher who is so comfortable with his cuckolding that he plays chess in the local pub with his wife's lover. And does Chris O'Dowd with his clown's face make a convincingly tragic figure? And the dialogue is mainly a series of trite rants. Nature disclaims it, a tin ear made it.

And the plot - merciful jazus.  SPOILER ALERT  Priest is threatened over the phone by a victim of abuse. Priest wanders around the village and receives constant abuse from a variety of unlikely characters - all caricatures, some plain ridiculous. Church is burned down. The most unlikely village dance in film history takes place. Priest shoots up pub because he gets drunk after his beloved dog is killed. Priest then turns up at appointed time on beach to be murdered. And is murdered. Thank God.

Brendan Gleeson walks tall amid this appalling farrago. Ben Bulben looks great. And I still miss the lovely golden retriever. But I desperately wanted to leave before the end - bored and abused. But my location thwarted me so I lingered, sighing deeply, to the silly end. And reader the audience clapped. Maybe in relief.