Sunday, September 14, 2008

Circle of Friends

When I was 12 or 13, my aunt took me to see a movie called Circle of Friends. Of course it wasn’t exactly a movie my parents would want me to see at that age, but my aunt always felt that I was more mature than everyone gave me credit for. So I sat there in the theater thinking that Chris O’Donnell was pretty dreamy and that was it. However, it was the first “grownup” movie I had seen so I was very pleased with myself. About 13 years later, I still think of the movie occasionally, so I decided to review it.
Circle of Friends tells the tale of Bernadette Hogan, Eve Malone, and Nan Mahon, who were raised in Knockglen, Ireland. The movie, set in 1957, follows these three childhood chums through their college experience (which includes love, lust, and betrayal) and how each of them comes through these experiences. The story mainly focuses on Bernadette Hogan (Minnie Driver) who is an only child who is shouldering a very unreasonable expectation. As everyone can relate to, there are times when parents think they know what is good for their children and that the children should just obey. Benny (as she known in the movie) is facing the fact that her parents think she should be with their creepy store clerk, Sean (Alan Cumming), but Benny has already fallen in love with a man she met at college, Jack Foley (Chris O’Donnell). Although Benny is obviously the heroine of the movie, we still see the lives and struggles of her two childhood friends Eve and Nan. Benny’s main struggle is that she is not classically beautiful. I would say that she is on the average to pretty side of the looks continuum. Her main problem with herself is her irrational belief that she is too fat for anyone to want her. But what girl hasn’t felt like that at one time or another?
This was an extremely hard movie to locate. I could only find it at one store around my area. This puzzled me because I remember the movie being very popular, but after having viewed it, I can somewhat understand the less than thrilling demand of this movie. The acting is average, there is nothing horrible about it, but I feel that acting didn’t wow me this second time around. I think my main issue with the acting was the Irish accents, which could have been better. It seemed like there was a constant switch between Irish and English accents.
Another problem that I had with the movie was the pacing; there were many times were I felt bored and that the pacing of the movie was too uneven. I switched from almost turning it off to being really interested in the scenes multiple times. I think that more could have been done with the story to fill in these gaps. I wasn’t expecting a fast paced car heavy shootout in the middle of an Irish village, but there was definitely room for improvement.
One interesting thing about the movie was the casting of Alan Cumming. This Scottish actor is probably most commonly known for portraying Nightcrawler in X-Men 2. Cumming played the role of the creepy store clerk with an eye for our heroine. As much as I enjoy his acting, I feel like he was type cast. He doesn’t have the conventional Hollywood look and all he had to add was a few sketchy looks and moves to transform into this creepy guy.
I like the story of this movie and did enjoy watching it for the most part. I certainly do feel that they could have done better with the acting, but it’s not like they didn’t try, like in some movies I have reviewed. Overall, I would say that the movie is worth a viewing, and Chris O’Donnell is still pretty dreamy, especially when he gets his Irish accent right. So unlike my personal circle of friends, which I would give a 22, I’ll have to give the movie Circle of Friends a 5.


Eve said...

I remember liking this movie as a teenager, too, and thinking Chris O'Donnell was pretty dreamy. More importantly, both my best friend (with whom I watched it) and I really identified with Benny, who isn't really fat but is larger than most girls you see in the movies (Minnie Driver gained weight for the role). So it's sort of a wish-fulfillment for all us girls who considered ourselves plain.

I haven't seen it in years so I can't really comment on its quality, but I read the book a few years back, and I thought it was a better story than the movie. In the book Jack breaks her heart as well, but instead of eventually getting back together with him, she gets over him, which I thought was much more realistic. I'd have liked to see that in the movie (as a grownup; as a kid I thought the movie ending was great).

Your Racist Friend said...

This movie has Chris O'Donnell, who is a complete and utter dealbreaker for me. I can't think of one movie he was in that I enjoyed. A cursory glance at the IMDB confirms this for me: Chris O'Donnell results in cinematic death.

Particle Man said...

i most heartily disagree. The Three Muskateers was great fun. i didn't really like O'Donnell's performance in it, but there was plenty to balance that out. Disney may be an evil corporation slowly taking over the world, but it makes some darn good movies.

Your Racist Friend said...

I don't know......30% on rottentomatoes plus the Razzie nomination Chris O'Donnell got for that movie don't indicate good things to me. And I think Disney's decent creative output is down to almost nothing, save for for the fluke of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie a few years ago.

Stormy Pinkness said...

Yah I definitely identified with Benny as well. I also agree with you about the ending, but atleast it's not as bad as some of the chick flicks that are out there now, where everything is forgiven at once.

Regarding Chris O'Donnell, while his presence in a movie is not a deal breaker for me, it really doesn't thrill me as it used to.

Thank you PM for defending one of my favorite movies. I loved the Disney's version of the 3 Musketeers. Not so much for Chris O'Donnell, but I loved the characters of Porthos, Athos, and Aramis. Not a terrific movie, but one that is thoroughly enjoyable IMHO.