(*homocinematically inclined)

Monday, March 7, 2011

Reel Thoughts: On Dublin Time

Ireland’s financial collapse destroyed a crazy economic bubble known as the Celtic Tiger. Writer/Director Brian Lally uses this as a backdrop to set his big screen soap opera 8.5 Hours (now available on DVD), about four office workers who are having the worst Monday ever.

Rachel (Lynette Callaghan) is desperate to buy an overpriced Dublin condo, despite breaking up with the boyfriend who was going to make it affordable. Eoin (Victor Burke) is neck-deep in expensive wedding plans, even though he’s hiding his bisexuality from his bride-to-be. Tony (Jonathan Byrne) is a coke-sniffing womanizer who is getting weird hate mail threatening that judgment is upon him. Finally, Frank (Art Kearns) is reeling from finding his neglected wife in bed with his best friend. Each character’s back story is shown as their lives shatter, just like the company they work for and the country in which they live.

8.5 Hours is an engaging melodrama that reveals the dark sides people try to hide from the world. Each person has sympathetic characteristics except for Tony, but it is hard to cheer on their choices. Rachel blackmails her smarmy boss over his on-the-down-low lifestyle, while Eoin cheats on his fiancée while continuing to let her play 'Bride Beautiful'. A creepy element enters the story when a mysterious old woman begins accosting Tony for a sin he committed years before. She makes Carrie’s mother look like Mary Poppins. The acting is well done and Callaghan, in particular, shines as the shifty Rachel.

This isn’t a film where you’ll find positive gay role models, but 8.5 Hours does reveal a segment of Irish culture that ferments the secretive behavior of its bisexual characters. Rachel is more than punished for her ruthless ambition and misdeeds, but women viewers may find the film offensive overall for its depiction of its female characters. Overall, 8.5 Hours doesn’t succeed as the cultural indictment it wants to be, due to an over-reliance on melodrama. As an entertaining soap opera about Dubliners behaving badly, though, it can’t be beat.

Review by Neil Cohen, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and Phoenix's Echo Magazine.

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