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Wild Mountain Thyme
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by Peter Sobczynski

"a.k.a. Fifty Shades of Begorrah"
4 stars

When the trailer for “Wild Mountain Thyme” hit a few weeks ago, it was largely derided as looking like nothing more than a cartoonish portrayal of Irish lives with all the actors sporting ridiculously unconvincing accents (even co-star Jamie Dornan, who actually is Irish) while spouting blather that made “The Quiet Man” looks restrained by comparison. Well, having seen all of writer-director John Patrick Shanley’s film, all I can say is that as crazy as that trailer might have seemed, it hardly begins to scratch the surface of the madness on hand.

Dornan plays Anthony, an odd young man who is currently at odds with his aging father, Tony (Christopher Walken. . . yes, Christopher Walken) because the old man refuses to bequeath the family farm to him unless he gets married and is contemplating passing it on instead to distant American relation Adam (Jon Hamm). Since Tony has spent his entire life living next door to Rosemary, the spirited lass (sorry, but just thinking about this film inspires such phrases) who has loved him since they were both six years old and who has grown up to look like Emily Blunt. This would seem to be an absolute no-brainer but Anthony will not even consider marrying Rosemary or anyone else—he holds a secret that he believes is so strange that it automatically disqualifies him from ever being deserving of love. It certainly doesn’t bode well when he whispers his secret to a beautiful stranger passing through and she is so taken aback that she literally falls off of the ledge that they are sitting on.

Based on Shanley’s 2014 play “Outside Mullingar” (and possibly inspired by a certain Selma-heavy episode of “The Simpsons”), “Wild Mountain Thyme” is, to put it simply, completely nuts from the first moments, in which Walken introduces the story in his deeply dubious brogue with “Welcome to Ireland. My name’s Tony Reilly and I’m dead,” to its jaw-dropper of a finale in which Anthony’s secret is revealed at last. That said, if Shanley’s previous romantic fantasies, “Moonstruck” and the great “Joe Vs. the Volcano,” have shown, he is not one for subtlety or half-measures when it comes this kind of storytelling. This outing is not quite as successful as those earlier efforts and for a while, it may seem rambling and undisciplined even by his standards. I confess that even I found the first third or so to be kind of a mess and that was even after I managed to put the loopy accents out of my mind.

However, at some point, Shanley finally finds the right groove and I found it growing more and more endearing as it went along its own deeply and delightfully mad way and when that secret was finally revealed, I will confess that I did not see it coming and that, for all of its lunacy (to even hint at what it might be would cause you to think that I was either lying or crazy), it somehow works. As for the cast, they known that this is not meant to be a realistic story by any means and are clearly having fun pushing the limits of their characters and their eccentricities without ever quite tripping over into pure cartoonish buffoonery. (Even though his character is the most pained of the bunch throughout, Dornan shows more life her than he demonstrated in the entire “Fifty Shades of Grey” saga, speaking of implausible romances.)

“Wild Mountain Thyme” is probably not for everyone and I can readily imagine some people dismissing it as the kind of garish nonsense that makes them yearn for the gritty reality of “Waking Ned Devine.” On the other hand, those who do succumb to its strange charms are likely to absolutely adore it. Put it this way—if you read that quote from Tony and smiled at the thought of Christopher Walken intoning those words, this could well be the movie for you.

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originally posted: 12/10/20 11:42:06
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  11-Dec-2020 (PG-13)



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