Red Roses and Petrol: Fake-Irish


Dublin poet and university librarian Enda Doyle (a deceptively top-billed Malcolm McDowell, seen mostly in camcorder soliloquies) learns that he’s dying, and then does, so let’s meet his kin as they reunite at the wake to drink, quarrel, open emotional wounds, and expose secrets, as all dysfunctional-family-at-a-funeral clichés are wont to do. Uptight daughter Catherine (Susan Lynch) has brought her milquetoast beau back home to meet her sister Medbh (Heather Juergensen), rattled ma Moya (Olivia Tracey), and confrontational misfit bro Johnny (Max Beesley), whose gauzy flashbacks attest that he’s a jerk because Daddy smacked him around. Apparently lost in some whiskey haze since its AFI fest premiere in 2003, director and co-writer Tamar Simon Hoffs’s bland-as-boiled-cabbage adaptation of Joseph O’Connor’s play finally hobbles into theaters, reminding us every 15 seconds that just because it looks distinctly American and was shot in California, it’s a fookin’ Irish movie. Yet neither the backyard jigging, lap blankets, spots of tea, Gabriel Byrne name-check, nor forced colloquialisms (Johnny’s girlfriend is “still spreadin’ me balls on toast”) feel at all natural, and there’s nothing “grand” or “sound as a hound” about the cast’s chemistry, the limp dramatic twist, and a most regretful gag about snorting cremated ashes.