Friday, March 16, 2007

Cleveland Film Festival: What Means Motley?

I rolled into the Tower City Center parking area about an hour before my first film was to start. Parking was already tight, so I can only imagine what it will be like Saturday with the St. Patrick’s Day parade downtown.

I wanted to kick off the festival with something light, so first up was WHAT MEANS MOTLEY? The film is based on a real immigration scam from 1999. With a gift for blarney, Mickey Moynihan (Barry Mulligan) convinces the Irish Consul in Romania (Eamon Rohan) that his ragtag 41 Romanians with no musical abilities whatsoever are a gypsy choir. He's seeking visa approval for them to travel to Ireland for a music festival.

Mickey may be a crook, but he desires for these wannabe illegal immigrants to make it alive to their destination. Hiding them in plain view and tricking a government official can help him do that.

WHAT MEANS MOTLEY? has a terribly scattered beginning. Several people are introduced, with some of the set-ups not being essential to the story. The predicament Catalina (Irina Dinescu) is in--her father gambles her away to a gypsy gangster--spurs Mickey to whip up the scam, but her story could just as well have been handled with a line about needing to escape the country. While this scenario-driven film needs more character work, it squanders time by focusing on less critical details like this.

Essentially a less polished version of bumbling criminal movies--think of what the Coen brothers could do with this--and British arthouse crowd pleasers like THE FULL MONTY, WHAT MEANS MOTLEY? gets by with some solid pacing and an amiable nature. It's not all that funny or constructed well enough to work, but it's tolerable in a mediocre sitcom way.

Still to come...the documentary STILL ALIVE-A FILM ABOUT KRZYSZTOF KIESLOWSKI, the Norwegian dramedy REPRISE, and the DJ doc LIQUID VINYL.

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