12th Nov 2020
Kerrywoman, Edaein O’Connell just watched the ad for Wild Mountain Thyme and she has a question. Do the head honchos in the hills of Hollywood not realise that the town of Tralee has its very own drive-thru Starbucks?
What do you get when you drink the blood of Darby O’ Gill and the Little People and hold a séance to the music of Riverdance?
A movie called Wild Mountain Thyme it seems.
With Joe Biden winning the US presidential election, we all thought 2020 was turning a corner, but then we caught wind of the film no one in Ireland asked for.
Wild Mountain Thyme is a star-studded affair with Jamie Dornan, Emily Blunt, Jon Hamm and Christopher Walken. Written and directed by John Patrick Shanley – and based on his play Outside Mullingar – it has the makings of an Irish classic. There’s romance, fields, tractors, farms, fields, a dodgy American cousin, and a trip to New York.
Sure, begorra begosh! Isn’t that the sequence of life of every Irishman and woman on this fair green isle of the leprechauns and scholars since the diddly-idling famine?
Look, the makers probably meant well, but I wish they would have consulted us before production. Unlike what the trailer suggests, Ireland is actually in the 21st century – even the most rural parts. Do the head honchos in the hills of Hollywood not realise that the town of Tralee has its very own drive-thru Starbucks? And do they not know that there are queues every day because we have replaced historical hunger with an extreme addiction to sugar-laden caffeinated drinks?
Trailers only show snippets but these clips are usually the best parts of the film. If the preview depicts the film’s prime, I hate to think of the paddywhackery we will be subjected to in the full showing.
I love a bad romantic comedy and will sit through almost all of the worst offerings on Netflix with glee and a bowl of popcorn, but this has become personal. When Emily in Paris was released last month, the French were outraged at the depiction of their people. Some commentators have urged not to get bogged down like the Parisians with cultural specifications and enjoy the film for what it is.
However, I quite simply can’t.
Firstly, what era is it set in? On first watch, I thought it was 1950s Ireland with more colour. There is a white-washed cottage and Jamie Dornan has side-burns but then it starts to time travel. The tractors are too modern and the heroine, Rosemary Muldoon, twirls in a shawl and says “I’ll freeze my eggs” as quickly as you can say “spuds for breakfast, lunch and dinner.” Unless the female oppression of 20th century Ireland was nothing but a dream, an observer would have to say that the time period on show is actually an alternate universe.
The stereotyping is unrelenting but there are aspects I enjoyed. At one point Christopher Walken’s character says to his son Anthony [Jamie Dornan] that he is made of his cousin John Kelly who was “as mad as the full moon!” Because of course, how couldn’t he be? Sure aren’t us Irish so in tune with the moon and the tides that we go swimming in fairy rings full of Guinness with the banshee herself.
We are all mad hatters in this country.
Then Emily Blunt (who plays Rosemary) shouts “TWAS HE THAT KISSED ME” and by god, I wouldn’t lie to you but I nearly choked on my bacon and cabbage. Because if I shouted “TWAS HE THAT SHIFTED ME” in the middle of the town nightclub I’d be arrested.
All of this may be seen as endearing, and the foundation is there for an enjoyable watch, however, the elephant in the room is the accents. Pon me soul and god bless Saint Patrick but those accents are awful. It’s like the ghosts of the accents in Leap Year and P.S I Love You came together to create an endless Halloween.
The best Irish accent in it is Jon Hamm and he’s playing an American.
Of all the accents in the world, our own is the most tricky to get right. Very few have nailed it in the past with Daisy Edgar Jones in Normal People and James McEvoy in Inside I’m Dancing being two successful efforts that come to mind. Mostly, the attempts mirror Tom Cruise in Far and Away and this isn’t a favourable comparison.
There is an argument that the accent on display was a deliberate move. In the eyes and ears of an American audience, this is what the Irish look and sound like. And to attract an American audience you must stay true to form. However, Normal People performed positively with audiences on the other side of the Atlantic and those accents came straight from a rural pub in Sligo.
Maybe next time, film executives will choose Irish actors to play Irish characters. We are a country made of the arts and the talent we possess is endless. If they don’t do that, could they at least send us a voice recording of the proposed actor over WhatsApp for the good of all souls on this island?
So Americans, good luck and goodbye. May the road rise up to meet ye and may the wind always be at yer back but lads, would ye give it a rest.
Because we are a proud people.
And most importantly, we are Irish, not ‘Oirish’.
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