Harry, Sally: You've been replaced.
One of the liveliest comedies to come along in a decade, When Brendan Met Trudy is an imported riot that messes with the romantic comedy genre in such a way that it might never recover. And I mean that in a good way.
An offbeat Irish film, When Brendan Met Trudy is at its heart a simple love story between staid schoolteacher Brendan (Peter McDonald) and the mysterious Trudy (Flora Montgomery). Brendan, an enthusiast for the church choir and old movies, encounters Trudy in a pub after choir practice one night, and soon enough an awkward and budding romance is born. Trudy says she is a Montessori teacher, so wouldn't they be a natural fit? Surprise, Trudy soon reveals that not only is she not a Montessori teacher, she's really a professional burglar, and wouldn't Brendan like to prove his nascent love by coming along on some jobs?
In other words, it's a story we can all relate to: Duplicity and its place in romance.
It's always difficult to write a movie review that explains in words how funny a comedy can be. I won't do it justice, but When Brendan Met Trudy is simply hilarious, full of small touches that no mere mortal should have been able to dream up. After one of their many spats, a panicked Brendan pretends he's been hit by a car and flops down into a rain-filled gutter, hoping Trudy will take pity on him. Of course, she doesn't. In a moment of triumph, we freeze-frame on Brendan as he leaps into the air to click his heels. The freeze-frame ends, and Brendan crashes down to the earth, a mess. It's all so funny because it's all so unexpected, and rarely in my moviegoing career have I been so surprised by the direction a film has shot off to with the turn of each scene. (Not to mention: Trudy has the funniest "so-and-so became a such-and-such" denouement subtitle sequences since Animal House.)
The man to thank for this brilliance is screenwriter Roddy Doyle, also responsible for such Irish classics as The Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van. Doyle is working in a bit less family-friendly milieu this time out, and clearly he's let his imagination run wild. Virtually unknown director Kieron J. Walsh -- and his two leads -- shine throughout the picture.
Sadly, Trudy would certainly merit an even higher rating if it weren't so difficult to understand the dialogue. The accents, Montgomery's in particular, are extremely thick -- we're talking Trainspotting thick; I screened the film on video and was constantly rewinding to pick up what had just been said. In several instances, I never could figure out the punch line -- and a few jokes had to go by the wayside.
Ultimately, that's of little matter. It's too bad this film wasn't out in the States in time for Valentine's Day, because you aren't going to see a better bit of romance all year. (Add a star if you're a native of Ireland.)
Two young lovers with nothin' better to do.