Martin McDonagh Reunites with Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson for ‘The Banshees of Inisherin,’ and Their Friendship Was Never the Same


Listen to those banshees wail! (CREDIT: Jonathan Hession/Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2022 20th Century Studios All Rights Reserved.)

Starring: Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Kerry Condon, Barry Keoghan

Director: Martin McDonagh

Running Time: 114 Minutes

Rating: R for Irish-Accented Profanity, Inexplicable Violence, and a Bit of Nudity

Release Date: October 21, 2022 (Theaters)

What’s It About?: In a remote corner on the coast of Ireland, Colm Doherty (Brendan Gleeson) suddenly decides that he no longer wants to be friends with Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell). This is happening against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War of 1922-23, but it kind of feels like it could be in a present-day village that is so cut off from the rest of civilization that it never assimilated any of the new technology of the past 100 years. Meanwhile, Pádraic’s sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon) is all ready to finally leave the island, and she’s encouraging her brother to do the same. There are several other residents that we encounter, most of them men who rarely do anything besides hang out at the tavern. Then there’s Dominic (Barry Keoghan), the youngest, simplest, and most sensitive of all the main characters that we meet. But his prospects don’t look great, because Inisherin is no country for Dominics.

What Made an Impression?: I initially found The Banshees of Inisherin to be generally entertaining, but also profoundly inscrutable. Pretty much all of Colm’s behavior is nonsensical, but he’s so sure of himself that it makes you wonder, “Am I missing something here?” Eventually, though, it all clicked into place when I realized that Colm must be suffering from clinical depression. It wasn’t obvious at first because I’ve never experienced it myself directly, though I have encountered enough portrayals of mental illnesses to realize that it’s less about constant sadness and more about inexplicably destructive decision-making. Writer-director Martin McDonagh presents us with plenty of outrageous developments, but he employs a light touch that allows us to be drawn in at our own speed.

McDonagh’s previous collaboration with both Farrell and Gleeson was 2008’s In Bruges, a quirky black comedy thriller that is absolutely beloved by a not-insignificant segment of film buffs. I liked that one well enough but never felt like I was fully on its wavelength. I have similar feelings about Inisherin, but I’m a little closer to the inner circle this time. It’s not fully my vibe, but I think I get it. If this is your vibe, though, get ready for a hell of time.

The Banshees of Inisherin is Recommended If You Like: Hibernophilia

Grade: 4 out of 5 Friendships

Jeff’s Wacky SNL Review: Brendan Gleeson/WILLOW

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Brendan Gleeson and then two people who have a combined 2 Ws in their names (CREDIT: NBC/Screenshot)

This season I’m ripping it up by experimenting with how I dive into SNL episodes. This time I’m going to review each sketch with a single emoji. Will host Brendan Gleeson and musical guest WILLOW be okay with that? I hope so, because they’re cool people. Anyway, let’s see how this goes…


This Is a Movie Review: The Coen Brothers Sing ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’ and Other Tales in This Western Anthology

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CREDIT: Netflix

This review was originally published on News Cult in November 2018.

Starring: Tim Blake Nelson, James Franco, Stephen Root, Tom Waits, Liam Neeson, Harry Melling, Zoe Kazan, Bill Heck, Tyne Daly, Brendan Gleeson

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen

Running Time: 132 Minutes

Rating: R for Surprisingly, Perhaps Hilariously, Deadly Gunfire

Release Date: November 8, 2018 (Limited Theatrically)/November 16, 2018 (Streaming on Netflix)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs has a Buster Scruggs problem. That is to say: Buster’s not in it enough! That can be the trouble with anthology films in which no characters appear in more than one segment. This issue can be alleviated, at least somewhat, if there are multiple memorable roles. But when Tim Blake Nelson saunters into town in his white cowboy suit, guitar in tow, he immediately wins us over with his storytelling aplomb, extreme self-confidence, and superhuman marksmanship. As Buster’s is the first story, he sets a rollicking, self-aware tone that makes us want to spend as much time with him as possible. Alas, it is not meant to be. But surely, he could have been a narrator or a wandering troubadour throughout! As it is, though, his arrival brings us pleasure, while his quick departure only leaves us hungry for more.

The other segments are more scattershot, but if you believe that the Coen brothers’ droll humor belongs in a Western setting, then you should find enough to enjoy. The three chapters immediately following the titular kickoff – in which bank robber James Franco gets his comeuppance, Liam Neeson puts on a travelling show, and Tom Waits goes prospecting for gold, respectively – wrap up before they are able to have much of an impact. It gets better and deeper with “The Girl Who Got Rattled,” in which Zoe Kazan plays a single frontierswoman who must summon an unexpected amount of independence, while also dealing with a surprising, but perhaps promising, marriage proposal. It’s actually quite sweet, but then a Coen-style cruel twist of fate swoops in, leaving you a little devastated but narratively satisfied. The concluding chapter, “The Mortal Remains,” is more of a tone piece than anything else, with a group of strangers in a carriage on its way to somewhere resembling purgatory, or maybe even Hell. As one of the passengers, Tyne Daly is a force of nature to bring us home, but even she cannot quite protect us in this harsh landscape. It’s an otherworldly approach befitting filmmakers who are heavily influenced by the Old Testament God, and while I may find The Ballad of Buster Scruggs to be a minor Coen effort, it is not without plenty to chew over.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs is Recommended If You Like: Coen brothers comedy in general, but can deal with scattershot results

Grade: 3 out of 5 Color Plates

This Is a Movie Review: ‘Paddington 2’ Sends Our Very Special Bear to Prison, But Truth, Common Decency, and Marmalade Prevail

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CREDIT: Warner Bros.

This review was originally published on News Cult in January 2018.

Starring: Ben Whishaw, Sally Hawkins, Hugh Bonneville, Hugh Grant, Brendan Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Peter Capaldi

Director: Paul King

Running Time: 103 Minutes

Rating: PG for Cheeky Humor and Threats of Violence Appeased by Marmalade

Release Date: January 12, 2018

The first Paddington film was a clear refugee allegory, with the titular “very special bear” (voiced then and now by Ben Whishaw) looking for a new home in England after his home in Peru is destroyed. The coded language about what happens to neighborhoods when bears move in was an obvious stand-in for how some actual Londoners (and other native residents around the globe) feel about the arrival of immigrants. Paddington 2 – in which the raincoat-sporting, marmalade-loving bear is imprisoned for grand theft despite his innocence – is not quite so stark in its messaging. It may have something to say about profiling, though Paddington’s wrongful arrest has more to do with misleading circumstantial evidence moreso than ungenerous assumptions about bearfolk. Still, for a family-friendly flick that distinguishes itself with a gentle touch, it is notable how much it does not hold back from some genuinely unsettling moments.

It all starts out pleasantly enough. Paddington, now living with the Brown family in London, wants to get his Aunt Lucy, the bear who raised him, a truly special present for her 100th birthday. He comes across a rare pop-up book in an antique shop, but it is a bit out of his price range, which is to say, he has no money (unless the Browns have been giving him an allowance). So he sets out to join the workforce, which begins with an abortive stint as a barbershop assistant (make sure to keep what appear to be narrative detours in mind, as these adventures are all intricately and carefully plotted) but then ultimately leads to an entrepreneurial effort as a window-washer. This segment is most memorable for Paddington’s improvising by rubbing the soap against the glass with his bum, which explains why this is rated PG and not G.

It gets a little scary from here on out, though. Considering the genre, there’s no need to worry that it will all descend into a bloodbath, but in the course of the narrative playing out, the danger does feel real, and fitfully intense. The main baddie is Phoenix Buchanan (Hugh Grant), a washed-up actor who is now best known for appearing in hacky dog food commercials. He’s the real thief behind the crime Paddington has been charged with, a villain in the Scooby-Doo mold, though a tad more competent: awfully silly but a master of disguise and escape. Grant has a blast with all the dress-up and smoke-and-mirrors.

But the most worrisome threats come during Paddington’s prison stint. He runs afoul of Nuckles (Brendan Gleeson), the inmate assigned to cooking duties, who is legendary for dispensing with those who question his culinary decisions. It really does feel like Paddington is just one false move away from Nuckles beating him to a pulp. This is the neat trick that P2 pulls off. We really do believe that Paddington’s fellow inmates are capable of the crimes they are guilty of (though we would surely never see them happen in a film this), while simultaneously we believe that they would indeed befriend a fundamentally decent, very special bear.

Aesthetically, attention must also be paid to Paddington 2’s artful compositions. Director Paul King was no slouch in the first Paddington, with a whimsical architectural style indebted to Wes Anderson. This time around, he grows even more confident, assembling artfully arranged close-ups: single characters take up the ideal frame space and there is still an impressive amount of background information. London can be harsh, but the care apparent in Paddington 2 makes it much easier to bear.

Paddington 2 is Recommended If You Like: The first Paddington, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Family films that don’t hold back

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Marmalade Sandwiches