White Irish Drinkers
Directed by John Gray
Early in White Irish Drinkers, a Brooklyn-set bildungsfilm soaked in beer and coming-of-age cliches, a couple of Travolta-dressed slicks wander into an Irish bar. “Go back to Bensonhurst,” the bartender tells them, “you disco fucks.” Though it shares its setting—Bay Ridge, 1970s—with Saturday Night Fever, Drinkers feels a subway stop away from that movie’s flashing lights and kitschy style. Which is to say: this movie’s not about the American-born sons of Italy, but those of Ireland.
Nick Thurston plays Brian Leary (see? Irish), a sensitive boy—for a first date, he takes a girl on an afternoon stroll through Green-Wood—with a no-good bruddah (Geoffrey Wigdor), a poor put-upon muddah (Karen Allen), and a rough and tumble da (Stephen Lang, doing his best Ed Harris). Brian’s a gifted artist (“Vincent van Faggot”) who dabbles in petty theft, torn between two possible futures: College? Or jail, literal and not?
Set against dramatic Verazzanoscapes, White Irish Drinkers concerns a kid yearning to transcend the confines of his class and the expectations of his ethnicity. While his drinking buddies pride themselves on their civil service jobs and union benefits, Brian yearns to avoid the disappointment for which they seem bound, set in motion by young-adult choices, in turn determined by generations of violence, poverty, drink, and hard scrabbles. Isn’t there something more? Like Tony Manero, Brian’s gotta get out of Bay Ridge. But talk about a period piece: decades later, isn’t Brooklyn the place everybody’s trying to get into?
Opens March 25