Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Films Of Edward Burns

I was delighted to stumble across The Fitzgerald Family Christmas, a new film by Edward Burns, at the library.  Burns's films are never great, but they're almost always good (a tendency towards schmaltz in the narrative and a lack of cinematic style tends to keep a lid on how good his films get), which is sort of amazing since he seems to film his movies on the Hollywood equivalent of a fifty-cent budget.  The films are typically set in New York City and feature Irish-American characters.  They tend towards slice-of-life stories.  His strength is definitely characterization (you don't want to think too much about the plots or you will usually like his movies less).  The Christmas movie is in line with his previous work.  It's about a large Irish-American family whose estranged father is dying of cancer and wants to spend one last Christmas with the family he abandoned decades earlier.  Since there are about a dozen family members seemingly, there are about a dozen storylines underneath that main story.  Some viewers may not like that, but I enjoyed the weaving of the storylines and how the characters interacted with one another.  For a fairly realistic film, I didn't like the ending, which I didn't find very realistic, but it's a Christmas movie, so it would probably be too much a violation of the genre to have anything other than a happy ending (as happy as an ending can get anyway when one of the characters is dying).  Given Burns's tendency towards schmaltz, such an ending was almost inevitable in any case.  I probably will forget this film by next Christmas, but I enjoyed watching it, and I will likely again be delighted to encounter another film by Burns.  He's no Martin Scorsese, but, unlike Woody Allen and Spike Lee (to mention a few New York-centered filmmakers), who produced quality films early in their careers and then the law of diminishing returns kicked in (I won't watch Allen films anymore, and I think I'm at that point with Lee as I have no interest in seeing his remake of Oldboy), Burns's work remains remarkably consistent.  More people should check out his work.  Maybe then, he'd get a seventy-five cent budget for the next film and be able to create a great one.

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