Movie Reviews

Movie Review – The Brothers McMullen: Three Irish Catholic Brothers Struggling with Their Futures

Written by Ed Burns
Directed by Ed Burns

This movie was filmed close to where I lived back when I lived in New York.
Edward Burns is another product of Valley Stream, from the Gibson section. The house that the brothers live in during the movie is in this section and is his parent’s house. This film was made thanks to his father’s faith in him in borrowing the money that Burns used to produce the film.

It is ironic, then, that Edward Burns has written the tale of three Irish Catholic brothers from Long Island who carry a tremendous amount of baggage due to the fact that their father was a child abusing, wife beating alcoholic.

The movie opens with Burns’ character Finbar (or Barry as he’s frequently referred to) at the cemetery with his mother following their father’s funeral. No one seems sorry to see the man go, and his mother is on the first plane back to Ireland to join her true love. She gives her son one piece of advice before she leaves and asks him to pass it on to his brothers: Don’t make the same mistake I did.

The movie then jumps to five years later as the brothers are struggling with their romantic lives, all the while dealing with the emotional baggage left behind. They are essentially living alone in America with both parents gone, while at the same time dealing with the emotional residue from what went on in their lives. Never once during this movie is a good word spoken about their father, leaving the viewer to believe that no one is really sorry that he is gone.

Jack McMullen is the oldest brother. He is supposedly happily married, but when fate throws a beautiful woman who wants no attachments in his path, he is too weak to turn her down. He is afraid of committing heart and soul to his wife, Molly, though they have been married for several years. Following her thirtieth birthday, she wants to start a family.

Molly (Spin City‘s Connie Britton)is a wonderful woman who gladly accepts the chaos in the house her husband grew up in when the brothers move back in with them. This creates all sorts of situations ripe for the comic relief, as well as in-depth discussions into the brothers’ romantic lives (or lack thereof).

Barry is the middle brother, and the one that has the most resistance to committing to anyone. The impression is that he has bounced around from relationship to relationship, moving on as soon as the “m” word comes up. His analogy of how a relationship is like eating a banana is hilarious. Barry is eventually knocked off his feet by Audrey, who pushes him away at first. This probably is what Barry needs – a woman who is independent enough to be able to say “I don’t need you”.

The character I likes best was the youngest brother, Patrick, (portrayed by Michael McGlone). His world is so twisted into so many different knots, I kept wondering how he was going to get out of it. This was the most interesting part of the movie. Here is a man who is a religious Catholic. He is dating a Jewish girl who wants him to convert. Yet – as he point out to her – she goes to Temple once a year and he goes to church once a week.

They have been dating for a number of years, and Susan wants to get married. Patrick isn’t so sure about the whole situation. Complications are thrown in their path and their relationship is on-again, off-again from one minute to the next. Since Patrick is so into his religion, the brothers often come to him with their questions related to Catholicism.

It was interesting to watch the struggle the three of them have as they are torn between their hearts, their mother’s bit of advice, their physical and emotional needs, and their religion. Patrick’s conversation with a girl from high school about trying to be a good Catholic and trying to have a healthy sex life is a great piece of insight as well as being funny.

This is a light-hearted movie which will entertain as well as make you think. McGlone steals the movie from Burns, but all of the performances are good. In directing, Burns seems to get a lot from his fellow actors, but I think he could’ve done a bit better at times with his own performance. However, he makes good use of his location shots around Valley Stream, on the Long Island Railroad, and in Manhattan.

If there’s one quibble I have with the movie, it’s one that many others would not pick up on. When Jack is having the affair, at one point he tells his wife that he is going out for a quick run and proceeds to his girlfriend’s apartment in the city. From Valley Stream to Manhattan is at least 30-45 minutes by train and then it’s still a subway ride to wherever you want to go in Manhattan. That means it would be about an hour each way, plus time to boff Ann (the girlfriend). I think if my husband told me he was going for a quick run and was gone three hours or more, I’d be catching on a lot sooner than Molly is.

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