A mean streets coming of age tale in 1970s pre-gentrified Brooklyn and at a time when ‘don’t trust anyone under thirty’ played out exactly the other way around, two brothers search for identity in an unfathomable world of cheap booze and frustrated dreams, in White Irish Drinkers. And in an inevitable do-it-yourself, sea of unsavory or powerless adults, where role models are impossible to come by.
Crafted by small screen director John Gray (Helter Skelter), White Irish Drinkers stars Nick Thurston as Brian Leary, a confused and stagnating eighteen year old. Nick dreams of becoming an artist and secretly paints in a basement hideaway, while barely warding off attempts by older, troubled brother Danny (Geoff Wigdor) to draw him into a life of petty street crime.
And there’s even less consolation at home, where their dock worker father Patrick (Stephen Lang), a volatile drunk, routinely brutalizes both Nick and a passive mother (Karen Allen) who fails to protect her terrorized children. While Nick takes time out from the daily turmoil, at the oasis of a local movie theater owned by Whitey (Peter Riegert), where he works at a menial job. Nick is also pursuing the elusive, streetwise Shauna (Leslie Murphy), a travel agent who may, like mostly everyone else around, be confusing reality with inebriated desires.
And when Whitey claims to have booked the Rolling Stones for a night at his theater while they’ll be in town to play Madison Square Garden, Nick is thrilled to take on the task of getting the word out in the neighborhood. Even as loan sharks to whom Whitey is in debt, are waiting in the wings to get their cut of the concert, or else.
There’s a palpable, gritty sensibility that kicks in when it comes to these thwarted, desolate characters in White Irish Drinkers, and the percolating dramatic chemistry sustained by the actors packs an authentic punch. But beyond the incendiary dysfunctional turbulence of this family, their blatantly mismatched physical characteristics are a distraction, and maybe that shouldn’t matter but it does. In addition to any unique 70s atmosphere and feeling for a time and place that never seems quite real, even factoring in low budget considerations, and comes off more like a thin coat of paint splashed on the present.
Screen Media Films