A cheeky romantic comedy that ardent film buffs will adore, "When Brendan Met Trudy" is an homage-filled confection about polar opposite oddballs in love.
Brendan (Peter McDonald) is a totally square, socially stunted, young Irish schoolteacher who lives vicariously through his movie fanaticism (thus the copycat title). When by chance he meets a charismatic girl who is inexplicably interested in him, the only way he can think to flirt is by quoting obscure French art films -- and expecting her to get the reference.
Trudy (Flora Montgomery), on the other hand, is a hip young thing with gregarious character in spades, but much to Brendan's chagrin, no knowledge of film. On one of the rare occasions when Brendan leaves his flat (to go to church choir practice), they meet in a pub and argue all the way to her bed.
The movie begins with Brendan lying in a Dublin gutter in a rainstorm some months later, after having apparently blown it with Trudy big time. In voice-over, he quotes the opening of "Sunset Boulevard" -- "The poor dope! He always wanted a pool...Let's go back about six months and find the day when it all started." Not being a terribly original bloke, Brendan thinks this is a clever way to launch into his story of falling in love, learning to lighten up and discovering his girlfriend is a cat burglar.
"It's a living," Trudy explains as he gasps disapprovingly. But since by this time she's sat through dozens of art films for him, high-strung Brendan reluctantly agrees to give larceny the old college try when she wants him to tag along. Break-ins, arrests and condescending flack from his stuffed-shirt family follow.
Written by Roddy Doyle ("The Commitments," "The Snapper," "The Van") and directed by film rookie Kieron J. Walsh, "When Brendan Met Trudy" is full of winking cinematic tributes to everything from "The African Queen" to Godard's "Breathless" to Polish director to Dariusz Tomaszewski. But a film degree is not required to thoroughly enjoy the picture. The winningly idiosyncratic chemistry between McDonald and Montgomery is what carries the story.
McDonald's credibility as a pasty dork -- but a strangely magnetic dork -- saturates him to the point that in one scene he even runs after an angry Trudy with his hands stiffly at his sides, as if he had a broom handle shoved...well, you know where. The untraditionally pretty Montgomery's performance as a spunky, funky free spirit is wildly appealing without being so strong she overshadows the timidly neurotic Brendan.
Together their dynamic is similar to Matthew Broderick and Meg Ryan in "Addicted to Love," but this picture has more intelligent comedy and twice as much charm.
Once in a while, "When Brendan Met Trudy" gets a little too adorably quirky for its own good. But only because Doyle and Walsh frontload the film with comical asides, like the deliberately absurd news reports that keep popping up on Trudy's stolen television(s) about gay Orangemen marches and nuns going postal with machine guns.
Sometimes they just misfire, and such faux pas are at worst a minor annoyance and hardly diminish the movie at all.