Tuesday, July 2, 2013


I'm glad Melissa McCarthy is a movie star. And I go to see her in the movies she stars in. That's why I caught her latest THE HEAT tonight. Especially since she was starring with Sandra Bullock, another woman I'm glad is a movie star, but for different reasons. I'm happy to see an Irish-American like McCarthy make it big in Hollywood and especially a woman with what the movie and TV biz would call "her look"—or what some of my people would call "heavyset."

Bullock I've always appreciated even when I didn't like some of her choices or the obviousness of some of the plot points in her flicks. THE HEAT isn't her best, nor McCarthy's, the plot is ridiculously obvious and predictable, the direction just okay and the writing pretty pedestrian. It was written by Katie Dippold (she's written mostly for TV as far as I can tell, including MADTV and PARKS & RECREATION) but there are definitely enough laugh out loud jokes and set ups and pay offs to be pretty much what I was looking for, a little escape and some laughs.

But I couldn't also help but feel a little bit bugged by the Irish-American stereotypes and miscasting for McCarthy's "Southie" family (the movie's set in Boston), even though some of the cliches about the Irish, like all cliches, have some reality to them. Which brings me to Ray Donovan.
Talk about cliches. This new Showtime cable series is full of terrific actors, starting with Liev Schreiber, Jon Voight, Elliott Gould, James Woods (the latter hasn't appeared yet but is listed as part of the cast online so I'm assuming his character will make an appropriately dramatic entrance in an upcoming episode) and the always terrific Eddie Marsan (who makes watching RAY DONOVAN worth it even if there weren't other compelling things about the show).

I'm not always crazy about Live Schreiber, and he certainly seems like an odd choice to play another East Coast Irish-American (I think he and his wife and brothers and father, played by Voight, are supposed to be "Southies" as well), but he pulls off the physically intimidating aspect of his character (a Hollywood fixer, i.e. he cleans up the rich and famous's mishaps, sometimes violently), if not the "Irish" aspect.

As the title character, Donovan is a descendant and contemporary riff on the old hardboiled detective film noir icons, Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe the main one. The story is complicated and contains just in the first episode I caught tonight after THE HEAT (I wasn't quite totally satisfied with THE HEAT I guess) pretty much every Hollywood cliche there is, and again many based on reality but nonetheless cliches.

Interestingly both THE HEAT and RAY DONOVAN are written by women (the latter by Ann BIderman) who get in as much violence and brutality as the boys, even though THE HEAT is a comedy (like a weaker mash up of the odd couple cops of LETHAL WEAPON and TWENTY-ONE JUMP STREET). The violence gets a little too much.

I spent almost twenty years in Hollywood in the movie and TV business and never really saw any true physical violence, the kind RAY DONOVAN shows a lot of. Altercations, yeah a few, physical intimidation, absolutely, but somebody's wrist being broken or head batted in, not so much. A little too Tarantino for me (and I assume like him these women writers and creators haven't had much real life experience with that kind of violence either, so it all comes off as "Hollywood" created violence, though at times it works in the context of the story lines).

I'm not happy either to see stories that have a heavy Irish-American presence and yet I can't find any Irish names among the makers of the movie or TV show, or maybe one here and there but not in the top jobs. You see a movie by Scorcese about Italians and there's Italian names all over it, and same with other ethnic groups (Scorcese's big Irish-American movie THE DEPARTED based on Whitey Bolger supposedly, as RAY DONOVAN seems to be somewhat as well, didn't have any Irish names in the top jobs either).

I wonder if there was an Irish version of The Anti-Defamation League or the NAACP if they might not be objecting to the way Irish families are always being depicted brawling and getting drunk and acting and talking kind of crude and not too bright, etc.

Though, like I said, there's always some truth to the cliches and stereotypes, and I admit I recognized some relatives and friends in some of the traits of the Irish-Americans in THE HEAT and RAY DONOVAN, but unfortunately most of those traits weren't exemplary, the latter were left out for the most part, as usual. But, again, THE HEAT and RAY DONOVAN had enough good moments to make them worth it as escape, just don't expect much more than that. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Agreed. Wondering if you saw season 2 of Ray. In an episode Butchie askes Terry why the Irish didn't fish during the potato famine. I was appalled. We Irish Americans know why the Irish couldn't just fish. I felt this scene portrayed not only Irish Americans but the Irish as stupid.