By Matt Gordon
I just listened to part of a debate about vegetarianism. Is it good for the planet? For me? For others? I came away as I do from most debates, even more confused than before. There is very little I know for sure, and each year gains me not more certainty but less. I find myself changing once-sacred views and considering candidates and ideas I would have scoffed at in a not-so-former life. I know very little. But I do know this:
The Irishman was bad.
Yep, I said it. I’m not supposed to say that. You aren’t supposed to either. If you don’t know anything about The Irishman, first, Hi, I’m earth, nice to meet you. But seriously, it is all the buzz right now, and that buzz is favorable—released on a holiday week, it was a heaping Thanksgiving portion of praise. When all costs were totaled for the project, one could probably sign a front-end starting pitcher for nine years. Or, in less topical terms, it was crazy expensive. It had the godfather of directors. It featured a hodgepodge of actors contained on whatever list exists above the A-list.
But if you knew nothing about it, it has been made abundantly clear: it is cinematic greatness. To say otherwise is to be a doddering dolt, a savage, a fool. So doltishly, foolishly—and quite honestly—I say again proudly: The Irishman was unequivocally bad.
I’ll give a few reasons, but first let me make one confession. I am a movie snob. I have only seen one Marvel movie for this reason. I don’t openly bash them—they serve their purpose I guess. But they have very little appeal to me. (The one I saw was because there was a guest staying in my house who demanded we watch the latest of the, like, 70 installments. I acted enthused, but most of that was just inventing plot twists that hinged on irrelevant super powers from made-up heroes. Like Fold Man who has the ability to fold a letter perfectly to fit in an envelope every time. He along with Fountain Pen Man—who has a fountain pen as a right hand—team up with Stamp Woman to author, fold, stamp, and send a strongly worded letter to their congressperson who enacts change against a systemic problem that went way beyond the villain in question.)
But I digress. The point is that I am the self-ascribed high-minded connoisseur who is supposed to be joining the masses praising this film. I can’t in good faith do that to you.
The Irishman is boring.
Seriously, I’d rather change a light fixture than watch it. I’d rather sew. I’d rather sit on a bench that faces a concrete wall. I’d rather count. Not any items or anything either. Just counting. In fact, I found myself doing just that in its almost four hours. I counted, I recounted song lyrics, I watched each person I was watching with quietly bow out and leave the room or fall asleep, I arranged my mental drawers—it was all I could do to stay awake and enjoy the film that was surely one of the finest to ever be made.
Now, the snob would look at me and blame a millennial attention span or some such thing. Nope, wrong. Length has nothing to do with it. My favorite sport is baseball, homie. And I’ll watch the whole game. I like to read long books. On the beach, I just sit there. When it comes to films or shows, I can watch all day. Recently I watched the entirety of Mad Men in a handful of weeks—a show, mind you, that many considered too slow. I have found myself watching a (good) film and wishing it would go on longer. I recall Lord of the Rings . . . Guess who bought and cherished the extended versions? Yep, give me that fourth hour please, Mr. Jackson.
So it had nothing to do with length except that it would have been better to end sooner because it was so very boring. Nothing happens! Sure, people die, but it takes about a decade of build-up for someone to just, like, walk in and shoot them. And yes, this is probably more how it is in real life, but movies are not real life for a reason. That is why the film about my modern life—you know, taking showers and going to work and stuff—has never and will never be picked up by a studio. It. Is. Boring. Much of the movie was just old guys walking around and occasionally yelling at each other on the phone—not even in person yelling, mind you. On the phone.
Good dialogue? (I won’t even pander by answering.)
Character development? Mostly done through one steely gaze after another and some shoddy narration where the gazes just weren’t steely enough. I mean how many knowing, steely gazes do I need to know that the main character’s daughter disapproves of her father’s thuggery? How many steely gazes do I need to know the murderer is tough? How many steely gazes do I need to ascertain that a character is having an internal conflict?
It is just so, so boring. I’m serious. And so is it. Seriously, boring. Long? Yes. But that is not the problem. It is when quantity so outpaces quality where the hitch arrives.
Speaking of outpacing and hitches . . .
Everyone is old.
I’m not an ageism guy. I liked Grumpy Old Men well enough. Golden Girls? Sure, Blanche it up. I do not have a problem with all the old guys. What I had a problem with is that all these eighty-year-olds were supposed to be different ages. Why is Joe Pesci, who looks 75, calling Robert De Niro, who looks 80, “kid”? They looked similarly ancient! Then De Niro’s character is witnessing a young girl being baptized? I thought it was his granddaughter. Nope, it was his daughter. He was thirty. He looked like no thirty year old ever, except maybe, like, Benjamin Button or something.
One reason the age thing didn’t work is that all these guys pretty much are the same age.
Another is because, despite anti-aging face technology (which doesn’t work by the way), Robert De Niro moves like an eighty-year-old. He is supposed to be a young, spry assassin who everyone is sort of intimidated by, yet give me a Red Bull and a reason and I felt like I could take the guy. Me. A one-hundred-and-forty lbs. pseudo-chaplain against a mob assassin. I would have pounded the guy if not for the implication of conscience that comes from, you know, beating up a really old man. They needed some non-geriatrics for any of this to work. Every time they shifted time periods, I would try to sort out what age the director wanted me to believe these people were. It never worked. They just creaked around like their joints hurt. And after watching them creak around for four hours, my own joints could sympathize. Perhaps that was the film’s big accomplishment? Empathy?
Honestly, I don’t care that the story is made up. I don’t care that it is long. I care that none of it really works, and care even more so that I’m not supposed to say that. It is as if a mob hit would be placed on anyone with a dissenting opinion. But now, thanks to The Irishman, mob hits aren’t nearly as scary as they used to be. A gimpy assassin lumbers up and before he can pull the trigger, Fold Man, Fountain Pen Man, and Stamp Woman would have a letter written, folded, stamped, and delivered to the Chief of Police, who would zip over with about four hours to spare to stifle the hit and save us all a lot of precious time.
So I will say it again so that even Old Man Pacino and his cronies can hear me: The Irishman is bad.