Movie Review: Intermission (2003)


Title: Intermission 
Release Date: 29 August 2003
Director: John Crowley
Production Company: BSÉ/IFB | UK Film Council
Summary/Review:

I saw Intermission way back in 2003 and remember having mixed-to-positive feelings about it.  For some reason, there are scenes and gags that stick with me 18 years later so I figured it was a good time to revisit the movie.  The film is an ensemble comedy and crime caper set over several weeks in Dublin.  Stylistically Intermission feels like it’s at the crossroads of Pulp Fiction, Trainspotting, and The Commitments. It also has an incredible number of the top Irish actors of the time (and a couple of Scottish ones).

The movie has more brutal violence and just plain nasty characters than the word “comedy” would typically imply for me.  Those things are usually a turn-off for me but this movie does it well enough that it works. Nevertheless, be warned. It’s hard to summarize Intermission since it involves several intersecting stories, but here’s the basic gist:

  • John (Cillian Murphy) proposes an “intermission” to his relationship with Deirdre (Kelly Macdonald) not expecting her to take him up on it and start dating a middle-aged banker, Sam (Michael McElhatton)
  • Deirdre’s sister Sally (Shirley Henderson), who is recovering from an abusive relationship, and her mother, Maura (Ger Ryan), become heroes rescuing passengers from a bus crash
  • Lehiff (Colin Farrell) is a petty thief who smooth talks his way through a few crimes and then plans a major kidnapping/heist involving many of the other characters
  • Detective Jerry Lynch (Colm Meaney playing against his affable guy type and relishing every minute of it) is a “hard as nails” cop with an outside ego who captures the attention of tv documentarian Ben Campion (Tomás Ó Súilleabháin) who wants to make “edgier” reality-based programming
  • John’s sexually frustrated friend Oscar (David Wilmot) follows advice to pursue older women and ends up in a relationship with Sam’s jilted wife  Noeleen (Deirdre O’Kane)

The movie is filmed in a verite style with hand-held cameras and quick cuts.  The soundtrack is well-scored with songs by U2, Ron Sexsmith, and um, Clannad.  Somehow I can manage to care about the characters despite them all being jerks in one way or another.  There are also some great running gags about steak sauce in coffee and “Celtic mysticism” that are never not funny. I think I might like this movie a lot more than I remembered.

On a related note, I just learned that John Crowley also directed Brooklyn, a movie with a very different style and tone that I liked.  I should check out some of his other movies.

Rating: ****