On the night before Cole McKay’s (Michael Angarano) parents are to ship his pregnant teenage sister Kathleen (Emily VanCamp) off to a convent, the aspiring pitcher finds her patching the hole their furious father punched in the plaster after being antagonized by their troublemaker brother Terry (Tom Guiry) during her farewell dinner. It’s a touching moment, especially after debut director Brad Gann pulls his camera back to reveal that this is far from the first time Kathleen’s had to take a trowel to the wall and then re-hang a family photo to cover the non-pro patch job.
The problem with Black Irish is that, like those photos shifted to cover the holes, not everything is hanging in quite the right place here. The portraits of the members of an Irish-Catholic family struggling to survive in hardscrabble South Boston in the face of threats from without and within alike are excellent, especially those by Melissa Leo and Brendan Gleeson as unhappily married mother and father Margaret and Desmond. Angarano also acquits himself well as youngest son Cole, who would rather become a major-league prospect—as his father once was—than the priest his mother wants him to be.
Gann, however, leaves these exceptional players stranded on base by unnecessary ninth-inning melodramatics—including the cheesy Red Sox-induced heart attack and the fairly ridiculous, um, Irish standoff between brothers that land both the despairing Desmond and the downward-spiraling Terry in the same hospital.
Life, Desmond philosophizes at one point in the picture, is like baseball in that nothing happens most of the time, but then either all the glory or all the grief in the whole world gets heaped onto one guy. Gann’s mistake is in heaping too much grief onto a single act in what starts out as an affecting family drama.
Distributor: Anywhere Road
Cast: Michael Angarano, Brendan Gleeson, Tom Guiry, Emily VanCamp and Melissa Leo
Director/Screenwriter: Brad Gann
Producers: J. Todd Harris, Kelly Crean, Brad Gann, Jeffrey Orenstein and Mark Donadio
Rating: R for some language and brief violence
Running time: 92 min.
Release date: October 26, 2007 NY/Bos