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Tired Ideas Diminish 'Trudy'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 9, 2001

   


    'When Brendan Met Trudy' Peter McDonald and Flora Montgomery are Irish opposites in "When Brendan Met Trudy."
(Franchise Pictures-Universal Focus)
When Roddy Doyle writes the script, you expect unequivocal brilliance from the novelist-screenwriter who adapted his own trilogy, "The Commitments," "The Snapper" and "The Van," for the screen.

"When Brendan Met Trudy," which is Doyle's first original screenplay, should be considered a decent light beer but no Guinness. In fact, its greatest asset isn't Doyle's writing (which feels like a tossed-off version of his better work) or first-timer Kieron J. Walsh's competent direction. It's Flora Montgomery, a flash of blond, Irish fire who makes Trudy well worth Brendan's trouble.

Brendan (Peter McDonald), a teacher whose passion for European art films and choral singing are his only extracurricular pursuits, meets Montessori teacher Trudy in a pub. (Where else does a fella meet a gal in a Doyle movie?) Trudy, an observant one, sees the potential in this earnest, shy soul and agrees to meet him at a movie. She's not the sort to appreciate his kind of art or "small" films (like "When Brendan Met Trudy," for example), but she's happy to socialize.

Which is pretty much why she stands him up. Never makes it. Brendan gets over his disappointment enough to ask her out again. She rewards him by pulling him into her world, which includes wacky karaoke parties with friends like Edgar (Maynard Eziashi), a Nigerian refugee. Then there's the physical side of things. Put it this way: Brendan starts to dream through most of his classes.

Brendan gradually learns about Trudy's real trade, which isn't exactly above board. He also becomes increasingly suspicious that she may have something to do with a string of gruesome sexual attacks on men, conducted at night. Suddenly his passion for her becomes mixed with paranoia, and trust between them crumbles.

Doyle's screenplay has its funny moments. ("I'm going to an important Polish movie with a woman," says cinephile Brendan to himself when Trudy accepts that first date.) But it mostly follows some tired paths: including a replication of the "Sunset Boulevard" dead-narrator-in-the-pool beginning (most recently alluded to in "American Beauty") and the over-familiar story line about an emotionally withdrawn man who becomes alive again after meeting a female firebrand (as seen in everything from "Pygmalion" to "Something Wild"). But since most paths lead in some way to Montgomery's Trudy, much of this rehashed material is easy to forgive. Being "on" all the time is no easy task for an actor. But she makes it look natural.

"When Brendan Met Trudy" (Unrated, 94 minutes) – Contains nudity, sex scenes, obscenity and some violence.

 

Copyright 2001 The Washington Post Company


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