The Brothers McMullen (1995) Edward Burns

In the mid-90s it seemed every studio was trying to find the next big little indie title, so there were lots of smaller character-driven films being foisted upon the audience, and while a lot of the studios have eschewed that for sure-things and tentpoles, some studios still take chances.

But in the 90s it seemed there was all manner of small character pieces. Some of them are really good, some of them middling, some of them forgettable. When it first came out The Brothers McMullen seemed really good, rewatching it now in the second decade of the 21st century, it would be hard to call it middling if not forgettable.

Written and directed by Edward Burns the film follows three Irish Catholic brothers on Long Island. All of them are having life problems, and none of them really know how to navigate their lives. There’s Jack (Jack Mulcahy), the oldest, who seems to have his life sorted, with a house, a beautiful wife, Molly (Connie Britton, sigh, in her film debut), there’s the middle brother, Barry (Burns) who has never been in love and is working on his scriptwriting while trying to find an affordable apartment in New York City and finally there’s the youngest, and most devout of the trio, Patrick (Michael McGlone) who is unsure of his ongoing relationship with his Jewish girlfriend.

Jack is tempted into an affair, Barry has to decide between his career and a woman he is starting to fall in love with, and Patrick faces a pregnancy scare as well as a realization he may not be in love after all.

Some of the ideas felt dated, even at the time, but that’s religion, some of the dialogue feels dated and it’s not as fun as I remembered it being. It’s hard to empathize with any of the brothers, as none of them seem very likable, and the way they treat each other, and their significant others is abysmal.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a horrible movie, and it was an indie success at the time, but it just doesn’t seem to have held up very well. I like smaller films, I like seeing something wonderful that relies on word of mouth and the audience love to share it with the world. Working in a video store you could really have an impact on things like that, and I remember recommending this one to those looking for a quiet character drama.

It’s not something I would feel like recommending now. It’s just not as good as I remembered. But I was young and impressionable, and of an age with Burns, so perhaps that was part of what resonated with me.

It’s a small, well-made film, but now, there’s no in for me with the characters or story.

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