THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan


At first I couldn't make heads or tails of When Brendan Met Trudy, the second film of the current Shooting Gallery Film Series. Maybe it was the title, which reminded me of When Harry Met Sally. Or maybe it was the fact that Brendan (Peter McDonald) meets Trudy (Flora Montgomery) in a typically cutesy kind of way. Whatever it was, the film seemed so...normal. The reason I was thrown was because the screenplay is credited to Roddy Doyle, a master of acerbic wit who also penned The Commitments and The Snapper. Doyle's writing is typically offbeat and wickedly funny. I couldn't believe he would write such a generic romantic comedy.

He didn't. About 15 minutes into the picture, the story takes a sharp left turn, never to return to normality. Having the rug pulled out from under you has rarely been as much fun as it is here.

Brendan (Peter McDonald) gets in over his head when he meets Trudy (Flora Montgomery)
Brendan is a school teacher in Dublin, Ireland. He is also an avid movie buff who spends his free time at the local art cinema. One evening, in a bar, he meets Trudy, who claims to be a Montessori teacher. They don't seem to have much in common; he's stuffy and she's obviously a free spirit. Brendan asks her on a date anyway. She accepts, then stands him up. He asks her out again and this time she follows through. They go to a movie, and she only cares about the stars while he spends all his time raving about the direction and cinematography. (This trait does not seem particularly unusual to a film critic, but to most people it is probably quite yawn-inducing.) There is a spark between them in spite of their differences.

Then Brendan finds out Trudy is not a Montessori teacher at all. In fact, he comes to believe that she is something else altogether. Something that is distinctly not good. Something no man wants his girlfriend to be. (I would love to be more specific, but the surprise is so insanely funny that I wouldn't dream of blowing it.) Brendan confronts Trudy, which leads to a revelation about her mysterious late-night outings. Rather than shun her, he finds himself oddly turned on. Together, they embark on a journey of self-discovery that - most aptly described - crosses the philosophies of John Gray and Tony Soprano.

In its own way, When Brendan Met Trudy is about the thrill of love. To make its point, Doyle has given his female lead a character trait that provides very illicit kinds of thrills. Rather than running from her, Brendan runs to her, throwing caution to the wind in a fervor of sexual ecstasy and what-the-hell ambivalence. She frees him from his prim and proper cage, both sexually and mentally.

There are many big laughs as Brendan and Trudy wreak havoc on Dublin. One of the biggest comes when Brendan introduces his lady love to his family. His mother, believing that Trudy really is a Montessori teacher, launches into a hilarious tirade about how today's children freely use a certain once-taboo twelve letter-profanity. Doyle has filled his screenplay with all kinds of bizarre and witty moments. Director Kieron J. Walsh maintains an off-kilter tone that allows us to be repeatedly surprised by the characters' actions.

I laughed a lot at this movie, especially the ending, which perfectly mocks those "where are they now?" titles that many films use to tell us where the characters ended up. ("Mary was a fictional character and ceased to exist at the end of the film," the first one says.) Because Brendan is a film buff, there is an intentional skewering of movie cliches throughout. Certain elements of his romance are almost like a movie to Brendan, but they keep barrelling off track in ways neither he, nor we, expect. Complimenting the humor is the fact that there's something satisfying about the relationship between these two people. Do we sometimes fall in love with a person who is wildler (or more conservative) than we are? Of course. Just like in the picture shows.

The Shooting Gallery Film Series plays in a handful of major cities, so When Brendan Met Trudy might be hard to find for those living in smaller towns. However, I am going to pay the movie the highest compliment I can think of: it's worth going out of your way for.

( 1/2 out of four)

When Brendan Met Trudy is unrated but contains adult language and sexual content including nudity. The running time is 1 hour and 35 minutes.
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