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With: Peter McDonald, Flora Montgomery, Marie Mullen, Pauline McLynn, Don Wycherley, Maynard Eziashi, Eileen Walsh, Barry Cassin, Niall O'Brien, Rynagh O'Grady, Ali White
Written by: Roddy Doyle
Directed by: Kieron J. Walsh
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 95
Date: 09/12/2000

When Brendan Met Trudy (2001)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Love at the Flickers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

It's an idea only a film buff could dream up: a mild-mannered schoolteacher and choir singer who spends all his spare moments watching and dreaming about movies, meets and falls in love with a beautiful blonde burglar, and leaves behind his imaginary fantasy world to enter a real one.

If any of a thousand young movie lovers had written this scenario, it would have turned out devastatingly bad, probably crammed with more movie references than life. But the fellow who wrote When Brendan Met Trudy, Roddy Doyle, knows his stuff. Besides writing memorable books about life in Ireland, Doyle adapted three of his own stories, "The Barrytown Trilogy," into the wonderful films The Commitments (1991), The Snapper (1994), and The Van (1996).

The second of the current set of Shooting Gallery releases, When Brendan Met Trudy is great fun. Flora Montgomery portrays Trudy as a breath of life burst into a stale world. She smiles easily and feels solid and comfortable, devouring every morsel of life. When Brendan invites her to "an important Polish movie," she stands him up for the simple reason that "I changed my mind." And we believe her.

Poor Brendan (Peter McDonald) is another story, and the movie's most sticky flaw. He can never seem to decide how to act. In his classroom, he plays the confident goof who can never remember his students' names. He also has no qualms about cruelly ridiculing them (he tells one boy that his father has died). But when it comes to Trudy, Brendan plays the timid innocent and seems put off by her illegal activities. I suppose his personality quirks could be chalked up to a life spent in dark movie theaters, emulating the likes of Jean-Paul Belmondo in Breathless (1959) and John Wayne in The Quiet Man (1952) and The Searchers (1956).

This is a small bicker, however, and When Brendan Met Trudy victoriously crosses the finish line in spite of its confused protagonist. Doyle and director Kieron J. Walsh do us the favor of keeping Brendan and Trudy in Ireland, instead of sending them on the road, Bonnie and Clyde-style. Their relationship gets to develop naturally with the usual ups and downs, like Trudy suffering the injustice of meeting Brendan's odd family, and some unusual ones, as well. When a hooded killer who chops off his/her victim's genitals begins making the news, Brendan suspects his new girlfriend. But Brendan attempts to put things right between them by teaming up to steal a new shipment of computers at his school. (Computers keep kids from learning, you see.)

Overall, When Brendan Met Trudy lacks the loose and naturally sprawling feel of Doyle's earlier films. It sometimes feels crowbarred into shape, as in the corny Sunset Boulevard-type wraparound sequence. But it's still that rarest of all rare combos: a wonderful date movie for film buffs.

(This review originally appeared in the San Francisco Examiner.)

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