14 April 2013

The Van


The Van 1996
  • Director: Stephen Frears
  • Based on book by Roddy Doyle
  • Cast: Colm Meaney, Donal O’Kelley, Ger Ryan, Caroline Rothwell, Neili Conroy,
  • Personal “oh yeah him/her” reaction, i.e. have seen this actor/actress in:
    • Colm Meaney  The Commitments, The Snapper, The Last Mohican
    • Ger Ryan – The Commitments
  • Why bought: by Roddy Doyle (The Commitments), remembered liking it
  • Seen: About ten years ago and now: January 18, 2013

 The problem with this movie is that it isn’t The Commitments. Everybody wants it to be but it isn’t, in spite of their aspects in common: several of the cast are in both, they’re both based on novels by Roddy Doyle and he wrote or co-wrote the screenplays, they’re both about unemployment in Ireland and how the characters create meaningful work for themselves.  If we didn’t have The Commitments in our hearts, maybe The Van would have seemed better. Poor little brother, always being compared to the glorious older brother and falling short. And I use “brother” on purpose even though both had excellent female roles.
That’s one of the reasons The Van doesn’t work.  Both wives are interesting women and very well played but the movie doesn’t allow them to go anywhere. So much lost potential. The daughter is given a hinted-at life but is essentially marginalized though she is in much of the action.
Of the two men, the wrong one was made the main character – the coarse, childish, insensitive Larry is not likeable or endearing, he’s just irritating.  Bimbo, who is the one to take the initiative to the hamburger van and does all the work, is shown as a wimp, a failure as a boss, and a giver-up. The film falls apart and the ending goes nowhere.  I’m sure that was the whole point but it left me with a feeling of, “So what?”
My harshness is of course because of my disappointment. I had remembered it as being better than this. There is in spite of everything much to enjoy. As I said, the women are interesting and well acted. There is humor, there are some moving moments. But a film in which the most moving scene is when Ireland scores in the football World Cup is not likely to  get a whole lot of stars.

2 ½ * of 5

PS The Commitments when I watch it again for about the tenth or twelfth time, will undoubtedly get 100 * of 100.

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