Why Neil Jordan’s “The Crying Game” Brought Me To Tears

Greetings Loved Ones! Liu Is The Name, And Views Are My Game.

Have you ever walked into a movie theatre thinking, “I’m  gonna like this one. I just know it.” and come out thinking, “Wow! That movie really sucked?” If you haven’t, then let me give you a little piece of advice. Never, and I mean NEVER, go into a movie with expectations. All you’re doing is setting yourself up for disappointment. I did that with Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game and, believe me, the whole affair didn’t end well. Then again, its hard not to establish pre-conceived notions of a movie when you only know what trailers and reviews tell you. That’s precisely what happened with me and The Crying Game. You see, from all that I’d heard, it seemed like an absolutely perfect picture for me. Every review I read told me that it was politically charged, cerebral, semi-historic, and set in another country, all of which are huge pluses in my book. It even won an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, so there was no need for me to worry about it being poorly written. Yet despite all this, The Crying Game failed to entertain me, and I ended up walking away from it feeling rather disappointed.

For those of you who don’t know, The Crying Game is a 1992 psychological thriller written and directed by Irish filmmaker Neil Jordan. The film explores themes of race, gender, nationality and sexuality, all against the backdrop of the Irish Troubles. The movie begins with a group of IRA terrorists kidnapping a black British soldier named Jody. Their hope is that they can use him to negotiate the release of one of their commanders currently being held by the British.  For three days, they keep him in a safe house and wait for their demands to be answered. During this time, Jody strikes up an odd friendship with Fergus, a quiet but good-natured IRA volunteer. Jody knows that its only a matter of time before the IRA will realize that they can’t use him, and that, as soon as they do, they will kill him. He asks Fergus to go to London and look after his girlfriend, Dil, when he’s gone. Later, when Jody attempts to escape and is accidentally run over by a British Army truck, Fergus decides to honor the former’s request and crosses over to England. There, while working as a day laborer, he becomes acquainted with Dil, who is a beautiful and mysterious hairdresser/cabaret singer. Dil is instantly attracted to him, but Fergus, still wracked with guilt over Jody’s death, cannot fully reciprocate her feelings. Then, when he finally does work up the nerve to sleep with her, he discovers a shocking secret–she, or rather, he, is a transgender woman. Despite his initial revulsion, Fergus can’t keep away and, eventually, goes back to her. Then, when several of his former IRA associates show up and threaten her, he does everything in his power to protect her, even going so far as to take the blame for a murder he didn’t commit.

The story I just told you might sound pretty cool on paper but, believe me, its not so great when executed. By no means do I wish to insinuate that The Crying Game is the WORST movie I’ve ever seen–the current holder of that title is Adam Sandler’s You Don’t Mess With The Zohan–but it’s definitely not the best thing either, and here’s why.

First of all, the acting of Stephen Rea–the man who plays Fergus–is absolutely atrocious. I have NO idea how he ever got nominated for an Oscar in this role. But before I delve any deeper into this discussion of acting, I, as an actor, feel like I should explain a few details regarding the intricacies of the art. First of all, there are two different types of acting–acting for the stage and acting for the screen. When you’re acting for the stage, you’re generally advised to be somewhat larger than life with your gestures and inflections, the logic behind this being that even the person sitting in the back row should be able to see and hear you. By contrast, when you’re acting for the screen, it behooves you to tone down your volume and pull back on your expressions. Well, in The Crying Game, Rea takes “toning down” and “pulling back” to a whole new level. The entire time he’s on screen, he speaks in this dry, apathetic, and unbelievably dull monotone. Even in those instances when he’s supposed to be enraged–like the time when one of his former IRA associates sticks a gun in his face and threatens to hurt Dil–he barely raises his voice. I don’t know about you, but if somebody who I thought was dead suddenly showed up on my doorstep, ordered me to commit acts of terrorism, and then flashed a piece in my face when I refused to do so, I’d pretty much be buried beneath a multitude of emotions, the foremost among them being fear, anger and indignation. Then again, maybe Rea’s lack of expression is something he did deliberately. After all, the character Fergus is a former IRA terrorist, and its possible that, after witnessing so much death and destruction, he simply became numb and indifferent to the world. But if that’s the case, why would Fergus be so choked up over the accidental death of Jody? Why would he do everything in his power to protect Dil? Questions like these just go to show you how weak both the plot of the movie and  Rea’s performance really are. On a side note, if any of you think you recognize Rea’s name, but just can’t pair it with a face, he starred opposite Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving in V For Vendetta.

The second, and by far larger, issue I had with The Crying Game is that neither Dil nor Fergus is given any backstory. Even after watching the movie several times, I still didn’t know who these characters were, where they came from, or what motivated them. This, of course, made it harder for me to care about them, and since they were the people that were on screen the most, it also made it harder for me to care about the story. Now, in some films, like Taxi Driver and The Dark Knight, important characters are deliberately not given any background in order to make them more unpredictable and, thus, more interesting. For example, the Joker wouldn’t have been nearly as terrifying a threat if we, the audience, knew who he really was. Looking at it from this perspective, I can understand why Dil, who is secretly trans-gender, might not be given much of a backstory. Too much information on her past could give away her big secret and, thus, spoil the movie’s one big surprise. But this still doesn’t explain why we never get to know who Fergus really is. Oh sure, we know that he is loyal and kind, that much is revealed by his actions on screen. But we don’t know where he was born, why he joined the IRA, or why he was so moved by Jody’s death that he was willing to abandon his old life and devote every atom and fiber of his being to protecting a person he’d never met. Maybe we don’t need to know. Maybe its better to let inexplicably good characters like Fergus simply be inexplicably good. Maybe I’m just being too harsh a critic and I should just calm down. Maybe I’m an octopus. Who knows.

I might not have liked the movie as a whole, but that doesn’t mean that there weren’t still several aspects of it that I enjoyed. First of all, I absolutely loved Jaye Davidson–the man who portrayed Dil. In my own personal opinion, he gave a thoroughly believable performance as a woman, and he completely deserved his Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. I’m actually somewhat surprised and disappointed that he didn’t get the award, but that’s besides the point. In addition to this, The Crying Game has some very interesting scenes with absolutely cutting-edge dialogue, like the moment where Jody tells Fergus the story of The Scorpion and The Frog.

Anyway, I’d give the movie an overall rating of 6 out of 10. It’s got an interesting plot and is reasonably well written, but the characters are hard to pin-point, and some of the acting is awful. If you guys disagree with my opinions, by all means, say so. I’d love to have a debate. Alright, I’m through for now. See you!

Nathan

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