MOVIE REVIEW: Emerald City




Official selection and centerpiece film of the third annual Irish American Movie Hooley


I know it’s the clickbait haven of Buzzfeed, but this list of jobs well-known celebrities had before they hit it big is pretty humbling and eye-opening at the same time.  Once the millions roll in and we see the red carpets and flashbulbs, we forget the lucky breaks and hard work it took to get there, and that for every one of those matinee idols a thousand never make it.  Upon seeing Emerald City at the 3rd annual Irish American Movie Hooley, I’ll gladly raise my glass in hopes that Colin Broderick’s minimum wage days are over.

Emerald City, a working man’s drama spiked with humor and artistic longing, is the feature debut of Colin Broderick as a writer, director, and star.  The film stands out as a passion project and what a revelation it is.  His film speaks for struggling performers, eager creators, and, as a quaint bonus, the shrinking Irish immigrant heritage of New York City.  Emerald City encapsulates lofty dreams and poignant reflections with both grace and reality.

Broderick plays Colly, a father estranged from his daughter and one of a team of non-union construction workers employed by fellow Irishman Pat Mack (John Keating from Boardwalk Empire).  Joining him are the devout Richard (John McConnell, a bit player from The Departed), former boxer and ladies man Podge (John Duddy of Hands of Stone).  Mack’s jobs are always behind and the frantic owner is stressed enough by deadlines, dissatisfied customers, and the leg-breaking debt collectors to repeatedly threaten to replace his squad of favors for cheaper immigrant labor.  

Colly and the boys have their confidence and morale beaten down by the work and the world at large.  When the utility gloves come off and the toolbelts get hung up at the local tavern, the men’s words flow as they muse, monologue, and rant on society home and abroad, losses and losers, weak aspirations, societal changes in decency, and more.  Colly soaks all of that in and contributes his own as an aspiring playwright.  Through encouragement from a patron (Jacqueline Kealy) and a burgeoning love interest named Ophelia (Rachel Broderick), he has put pen to paper on all of those diatribes of trials and tribulations and turned them into an autobiographical play with a part for each man.

The highs and lows of these men and women are extremely well-acted by a dedicated ensemble.  Colly’s arc may dominate, but craters of emotional impact come from Richard, Ophelia, and Podge, as well.  There’s not a fake person in the bunch.  Their dialogue ripples with authenticity, making the entire narrative utterly captivating with gut punches in reserve.

Emerald City is hardscrabble set in the concrete jungle.  A soft soundtrack adds an audio anchor while cinematographer Eric Branco absorbs the urban trappings.  This is blue collar and bootstraps with well-crafted theme roots that are topical, bracing, engaging, and fittingly poetic.  Take notice, as I have, for Colin Broderick and company.  Someday, he deserves to hang up that hard hat for good.

LESSON #1: “FOR F--K’S SAKE” IS THE IRISH EQUIVALENT FOR “WHATEVER”-- This phrase can be used to open a sentence or close a sentence, and it’s exasperating and dismissive gold every time.

LESSON #2: A CASE OF THE DISILLUSIONED AMERICAN DREAM-- The United States may be the “land of opportunity,” but seizing can sometimes lead to closed doors for other opportunities, especially if you’re an immigrant.  Getting by requires making concessions for true dreams.  The Irish don’t have it as bad as Mexicans, but the struggle still exists.

LESSON #3: WRITE ABOUT YOUR LIFE-- Every writer’s lens, from Shakespeare’s to that from a dime-store paperback, is an autobiographical one to some degree.  Personal experience carries the most complete detail and emotional attachment compared to creating composites from a world not of your own.  Cull from that first as the root of authenticity.  

LESSON #4: BEAUTY UNDER THE BLUE COLLAR-- In the “don’t judge a book by its cover” department, put aside any notions that individuals of manual labor, vocational trades, or cable-ready dirty jobs lack creativity, culture, or refinement.  There are artists everywhere just trying to make ends meet.