When Brendan Met Trudy

on March 09, 2001 by Wade Major
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   Considering how naturally Irish author Roddy Doyle's novels adapt to the screen ("The Commitments," "The Snapper"), it's surprising that it's taken the prize-winning writer this long to write an original screenplay. The wait, however, has been well worth it. Though markedly lighter and less rigorously structured than his novelistic works, "When Brendan Met Trudy" is unmistakably Doyle, an infectiously acerbic romantic comedy with liberal doses of pop culture and media satire thrown in for good measure.

   Veteran television director Kieran J. Walsh makes his feature debut with stars Peter McDonald and Flora Montgomery in the titular parts--Brendan, the conservative, introverted, straight-laced schoolteacher, and Trudy, the raunchy, rowdy, uninhibited free spirit. In the hands of any other writer, it's unlikely that two such diametrically opposed characters would manifest any sexual chemistry at all. But in the hands of Doyle and Walsh, McDonald and Montgomery not only find chemistry, but magic. As Trudy pulls Brendan from his self-imposed cocoon, Brendan forces Trudy to face up to a minimal level of real world responsibility. In the process they find a middle ground that can only be described as true love. It may not be love as the rest of civilized society knows it, but it's love to them.

   Given that this is Roddy Doyle, it goes without saying that the film doesn't exactly follow a normal dramatic trajectory. Even Doyle's fans, however, may be surprised at how liberally the film toys with reality, at times deviating entirely from its established tone to take some very clever jabs at modern-day mores. Not that it ultimately matters--the film writes its own tone throughout and changes it up so often that not knowing how things will ebb and flow becomes part of the fun. Alongside obvious references to such classics as "Sunset Boulevard" and "Basic Instinct" are a host of insidiously subtle allusions (including a hilarious swipe at French cinema in general), all of it part and parcel of Doyle's unpredictably irreverent sense of fun.

   As good as both leads are, it is Montgomery who is the film's real revelation, a saucy little Irish sparkplug with big, bright eyes and heaps of sass to go around. While some may perhaps rightfully question what Trudy sees in Brendan, it's unlikely anyone won't be utterly seduced on some level by Montgomery's Trudy, all but guaranteeing the young actress a veritable avalanche of Hollywood offers once the word gets out.

   Recent strides by other British stage and television veterans also bode well for Walsh, whose capable command of the offbeat material should capture substantial stateside attention.    Starring Peter McDonald, Flora Montgomery, Marie Mullen, Pauline McLynn, Don Wycherley, Maynard Eziashi, Eileen Walsh and Barry Cassin. Directed by Kieran J. Walsh. Written by Roddy Doyle. Produced by Lynda Myles. A Shooting Gallery release. Romantic Comedy. Unrated. Running time: 94 min.

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