Jazz, film, and improvised culture.
Jimmy’s Hall: How to Get Deported from Ireland
Pearse-Connolly Hall was sort of like a cross between Hull House and Café Society
in rural County Leitrim, but with way more ideology. It was founded by Irish
Communist organizer James Gralton, who was not about to let a wee little thing
like the Ukrainian Famine dampen his enthusiasm for an all-powerful state. He
became the only Irishman deported from his homeland, but fortunately he still
had his American citizenship from his previous stint in exile. Gralton’s final Irish
residency gets hagiographic treatment in Ken Loach’s Jimmy’s Hall (trailer
which opens this Friday in New York.
his life, Gralton did a considerable amount of Atlantic-hopping, agitating and
fighting in the 1920s uprising, only to periodically retreat to New York whenever
things got too hot. In 1932, he thought he was returning for good, in order to
help his mother run the family farm. Of course, it is only a matter of time
before he reopens the torched Pearse-Connolly Hall, which he bills as a
community center of sorts. Boxing lessons and art classes are indeed held
there, as well as militant organizing sessions. It is enough to send Father
Sheridan, the parish priest into full crisis management mode.
instead of Jimmy’s Hall, Loach should
have called the film The Passion of the
Gralton. Like most heroes of propaganda films, Gralton is pretty darn dull,
but it is not the fault of lead actor Barry Ward, who brings an earthy,
unassuming charisma to the role. Unfortunately, Loach always makes him the
calmest, most rational person in every conversation. “That’s an argument for
another day” he says evasively, when Father Sheridan challenges him on the
Soviet human rights record. Yes, isn’t that always the case? However, there is
no time like the present to settle scores with those on Loach’s enemies list,
starting with the Catholic Church and the British government.
and away, the best sequences in Jimmy’s
Hall involve Gralton’s impossible love for his now married old flame
Oonagh. Star-crossed romance is tough to beat. Unfortunately, the instructive
drama is appallingly stilted. Yet, despite the lengths Loach goes to stack the
deck against good Father Sheridan, he cannot overwhelm the twinkle in Jim
Norton’s eye. By the second act, most of the audience will be rooting for wily
Father and against the Socialist sob sisters. Even more strangely, the film
completely wastes the compulsively watchable Andrew Scott (Jim Moriarty in Sherlock and the voice of Tom Hardy’s
high strung assistant in Locke) as
the younger and hipper Father Seamus.
Loach has made some wonderfully humanistic
films, like Looking for Eric and The Angels’ Share that reflect his
proletarian sympathies without didactically bashing the audience over the head.
Unfortunately, Jimmy’s Hall is not
one of them. Aside from Gralton’s stolen moments with Oonagh, it is a rather
slow and lecturey experience. Deeply disappointing, Jimmy’s Hall opens this Friday (7/3) in New York, at the Angelika
Film Center, just in time for Independence Day.
Labels: Jim Norton, Ken Loach