We Bought a Zoo
A widowed father played by Matt Damon moves to the South Californian country and purchases a zoo with his family
On Film4: 31 Aug 6:25PM
Sexual politics collide head on with actual politics in Neil Jordan's controversial Oscar winner, an IRA thriller-cum-love story with a plot bizarre enough to make studio executives spew blood.
Those unacquainted with The Crying Game should note that it is well-acted, original in intent rather than execution, and in possession of a narrative about-turn so insane that the film is guaranteed a place in cinematic history. They should then look away now, since it's impossible to discuss the film without giving away its secret.
For those familiar with the plot, the question is how does the unlikely romance between Dil (Jay Davidson) and Fergus (Stephen Rea) stand up when we already know their secrets - that he is the IRA soldier responsible for the death of her boyfriend Jody (Forest Whitaker), and that she has a penis?
The short answer is: not brilliantly. Though technically impressive, it's difficult not to see Davison's performance as anything other than an astute impression of womanhood, with the accoutrements of femininity acting as a barrier to actually engaging with the character's plight.
There is a certain heavy-handedness to proceedings. The actions of the IRA - kidnapping soldiers in broad daylight with no disguises - make this look like an amateur depiction of a real terrorist group rather than a realistic depiction of an amateur terrorist cell. Equally, the way in which Fergus and Jody are delineated (white v black, Dublin v Tottenham, hurling v cricket, "paddy" v "nigger"), but then bound through mutual decency, chit-chat, and Fergus helping his captive to urinate, sometimes feel forced.
That the central relationships aren't well drawn enough to anchor the extremities of the plot is a problem, but The Crying Game's biggest flaw lies with its central character. Fergus is not a tragic hero whose essential goodness leads him to err. He is, as one character suggests, "Mr Nobody", a nearly man, constantly acted upon, and blindly following the wishes of other people.
In this sense the film is a slow progression towards Fergus taking action, but he only does so in response to plot contrivances and we are forced to invest in someone who is essentially an IRA member by accident, a killer by accident and gay by accident.
To the cast, and Jordan's, credit, the big reveal is fantastic, and the climatic scenes have a compelling emotional nakedness, but it's hard to tell if we are watching a film smart enough to realise how frequently men fall in love with dreams, or flawed enough to fall in love with the dream itself.
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