« Catching up with 2005 | Main | Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith »

December 23, 2005

The Velocity of Gary

Dan Ireland - 1998
Columbia Pictures Region 1 DVD

Are Dan Ireland's films too modest to be picked up by auteurist film critics? Does he have to make a few more films? Ireland has proven consistent thematically with three films in a row about impossible love. Unlike some other relatively new filmmakers that have gained attention, Ireland is neither pretentious nor a stylistic show-off. One could fairly easily apply what Andrew Sarris wrote on Frank Borzage in discussing Ireland in that both directors show ". . . a genuine concern with the wondrous inner life of lovers in the midst of adversity." Not too overpraise Ireland either, but to at least call attention to a currently underappreciated filmmaker.

The one Ireland movie that received something like a wide release was The Whole Wide World with Vincent D'Onofrio and the then relatively unknown Renee Zellweger. While the character of Conan the Barbarian was popular enough to make two movies, there was little attention paid to the movie about Conan's creator Robert E. Howard. The film is about a deep friendship between an aspiring writer and an established author that is unable to evolve into something more intimate due to the writer's battling of his personal demons and his sense of devotion to his mother. This is counter-balanced by the dichotomy of the writer's personal life, what could be called a "mama's boy" living in a small town in Texas, contrasted against the writer's works, best known for heroic characters in exotic locations.

The Velocity of Gary is carried by the bravura performances of the actors. Again Ireland is working with D'Onofrio who in this film plays Valentino, a bisexual part-time porno actor who lives with his girlfriend, Mary Carmen (Salma Hayak). Valentino is also smitten with Gary (Thomas Jane) who supports himself as a phone sex actor. Filmed in New York City, the film offers the kind of characters that have appeared on film since Midnight Cowboy. What makes Gary unique is that in addition to being a portrait of the search for love in a hostile world, Ireland shows his characters achieving their own respective states of grace. The characters are a jumble of flaws and strengths, and Ireland loves them all including those who appear briefly like the transexual vamping to Patsy Cline's "Walking after Midnight", and Ethan Hawke as a Jewish tatoo artist.

Ireland came to Passionada, his third film as director, as a hired gun. While a much lighter film than his previous films, Ireland again made a film about the challenges of romantic love. As he describes the film: "It's the most simple film I've made as far as story is concerned, but to get it right was a tough, tough thing. It has a universal message of second chances, being open to love, being open to life. The hope and the heart."

These thoughts are presented at the conclusion of Gary. Valentino dies of AIDs, leaving a pregnant Mary Carmen. A healthy baby girl is born. Mary Carmen names their daughter Hope.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at December 23, 2005 08:52 PM