When Brendan Met Trudy (review)

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Love of the Irish

Romance is not funny. The quest for it makes us all miserable, and once we’ve found it, well, that usually makes us miserable in a different way. So romantic comedies are, by their very definition, absurd. And so perhaps it’s not surprising that rom-coms tend to play up their inherent preposterousness with unlikely situations, unbelievable characters, and dialogue unlike anything that real people say to one another.

Once in a while, though, those impossible ingredients add up to a romantic comedy is actually both romantic and funny, one that rings true. Maybe it’s the result of a genuine chemistry between its leads, or the comedy is tinged with a mordant humor that underscores the pain intrinsic to love, or the silliness of it all is handled with such a deft hand that it all bobs happily along on its own whimsy. Or, with When Brendan Met Trudy, it’s all of the above.
The first original screenplay from Irish novelist Roddy Doyle (whose books were the inspiration for movies like The Commitments and The Snapper), When Brendan Met Trudy stars Brendan (Peter McDonald: The Opportunists, I Went Down) as a lonely, thirty-ish schoolteacher, stuck in a rut of routine; and Trudy (Flora Montgomery), the mysterious young woman who, much to his surprise, picks him up at the pub once night. Felix Unger-fastidious and a bit of a Luddite (he hates computers), he’s been dropped out of another era into present-day Dublin. Fast-talking and sometimes downright rude, she is a thoroughly modern gal. Of course, they were made for each other, and made to drive each other crazy.

Brendan is a serious film buff (all Trudy needs to know about a movie is whether it’s in color), which brings When Brendan Met Trudy into a self-referential realm that his fellow movie fans appreciate the most. Casual viewers will miss some of the many classic film references Doyle and first-time director Kieron J. Walsh sprinkle through the story, or they may find them too cutesy or forced at times, but they’ll tickle the rest of us. Some are obvious — the title echoes one of the great romantic comedies, When Harry Met Sally, and the film opens with Brendan face down in a curbside sewer drain, his voiceover explicitly harkening back to Sunset Boulevard — but others are more subtle. There’s a little bit of the lovely nonsense of So I Married an Axe Murderer — Trudy has a habit of sneaking out of their bed in the middle of the night, and sneaking back in, covered in blood; and just what are all those odd, tool-like implements around her house for? — as well as Something Wild, as Brendan, too self-consciously cultured and unwittingly square to be cool, gets his horizons expanded and his sense of fun reawakened by Trudy and her impetuousness and criminal daring.

In the end, though, it’s simply the unalloyed joy of new lovers delighting in each other than makes When Brendan Met Trudy so enjoyable a piece of fluff. It’s the rare romantic comedy that manages to convey the life-changing effect true love can have, and this one will leave you floating as high as Brendan and Trudy.

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