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Stir-Crazy: Disabled Irish Rebel Comedy Swathed in Bathos

Dancing inside: Robertson, Garai, McAvoy
photo: Focus Features
Dancing inside: Robertson, Garai, McAvoy

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Rory O'Shea Was Here
Directed by Damien O'Donnell
Focus, opens February 4

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Let it be said that this affirmational Irish comedy (released back home as—wait for it—Inside I'm Dancing) does not hesitate to deploy archetypes in order to swat at stereotypes: When the young rebel Rory O'Shea (James McAvoy) tears into the Carrigmore Home for the Disabled and meets introverted fellow wheelchair user Michael (Steven Robertson), the spiky-haired tearaway becomes Randle McMurphy to Michael's Billy Bibbit, Angelina Jolie to his Winona Ryder. Rory has a rapidly degenerative form of muscular dystrophy, while Michael's cerebral palsy badly impedes his speech, but with Rory acting as translator and enabler, the guys soon break out of stir, obtaining their own bachelor pad and an earthy aide, Siobhan (Romola Garai). Michael pines for their comely assistant, though the film—helmed with sitcommy anonymity by Damien O'Donnell (East Is East)—mostly flinches from the able-disabled divide in their relationship. Plotted at neck-wrenching right angles (there's an estranged-Dad subplot lumpily folded in) and leaky with bathos, Rory O'Shea Was Here is a plea for equality of opportunity, a worthy objective somewhat obscured by non-disabled actors occupying the lead roles. In any case, one imagines Rory himself would prefer a Farrelly disability blooper reel.

 
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