Many Americans whose ancestors jumped right off the boat and into the arms of Lady Liberty have an annoying habit of claiming an almost obsessive level of fealty to the home of their ancestors. A home they have never visited. And the longer they stay away from the Motherland, the more warped and distorted their view of it becomes. Take Tom Murphy for example. He spends his days taking his girlfriend to the U2 exhibit at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (and ONLY the U2 exhibit), wearing novelty green hats with novelty green wigs, and – once a year – celebrating Ireland’s victory over Italy in the 1994 World Cup Finals.
It’s a subject ripe for parody and writer/director Sean Lackey certainly knows how ridiculous “Paddywhackery” can get in the minds of proud Irish Americans. There are some great jokes about the ignorance of American wannabees and their misunderstandings about the most basic aspects of Irish culture. One scene has the great Fred Willard playing Tom’s dad trying to teach his son about Irish history by taking him on a tour of a garden dedicated to dead Irish poets and writers. Unfortunately, he knows even less than his son does. He claims that Ulysses was written about the Civil War General and that Waiting for Godot was a tome on female deer hunting. Yes, Sean Lackey certainly knows the irony of proud Irish Americans knowing nothing about the country they love. Too bad he knows even less about making a movie.
The Yank feels incompetently thrown together. He had the money to make a feature, certainly. But he doesn’t have the talent. Some of that money went to good use procuring the abilities of actors like Colm Meany and the afore mentioned Fred Willard, who make the most of the material they’ve been given. But the rest of the actors charged with providing lines – in what appears to be a mostly improvised film – fail to show the discipline that an ad lib script would require. They talk over one another, they don’t converse with any rhythm and they leave each other stuck for things to say. So amateur is the narration that at first I thought I was watching a documentary where they had the subject providing the voice over. Other times the scope and look of the film is so narrow and un-cinematic that it feels like they’re filming on location without permission; that they had to be able to pack up the cameras and make a quick escape on a moment’s notice.
The Yank is made with all the love in the world, but none of the knowledge. It takes more than heart to make a movie; it takes dedication, professionalism and time spent studying techniques that most of the filmmakers here couldn’t even name.
Dir: Sean Lackey
Scr: Sean Lackey
Starring: Sean Lackey, Colm Meaney, Fred Willard
DOP: Keith Nickoson
Music: Chris Ainscough
Run Time: 89 mins
The Yank is available now on DVD.