Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Tribeca ’12: Whole Lotta Sole

If you haven’t heard, there are a fair number of Catholics in Belfast who are serious about their faith.  As a result, a couple of luckless lowlifes think it would be a good idea to hold-up the fish market on a Friday night.  Naturally, the caper quickly descends into chaos in recent Academy Award winner Terry George’s thoroughly entertaining Whole Lotta Sole, which screens during the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival.

It was Joe Maguire’s profound misfortune to marry the manic daughter of a Boston mobster bearing a strong resemblance to Whitey Bulger.  Fearing for his life, he is hiding out in Belfast, minding his uncle’s antique shop.  Though still quite jumpy, he starts cautiously courting Sophie, a beautiful Ethiopian refugee managing the record store across the street.  Sad sack Jimbo Reagan thinks Maguire might be a figure from his past, but he is more concerned with the 5,000 pounds he owes the local paramilitary turned gangster Mad Dog Flynn.

Out of desperation, Reagan holds up the fish market, Whole Lotta Sole, but this turns out to be a bad idea.  If you remember the Fulton Fish Market’s pre-Giuliani reputation, you will get the idea.  With both the cops and Flynn out to get him, Reagan takes Maguire and Sophie hostage.  From there, plenty of complications and miscommunications ensue.

Like Goldilocks, George (who just walked away with the Oscar for his gently forgiving short film, The Shore) maintains a tone than it light but not inconsequential.  He injects plenty of humor into the story, but resists saccharine sentiment and self-conscious quirkiness.  His sensitive treatment of Maguire and Sophie’s budding relationship is particularly refreshing, keeping them fully clothed throughout, while generating real sparks between them.

As Maguire, Brendan Fraser looks a wee bit young for the part, but he exhibits a kind of world weary everyman presence (really not seen in his prior films) that works quite well, nonetheless.  Indeed, he establishes some genuine chemistry with the luminous Yaya DaCosta, whose smart, down-to-earth turn as Sophie ought to bring her to a new level of international recognition.  Capping the picture off, Colm Meaney is perfectly cast as cranky but honest and decent Det. Weller.  Sure, he has played many roles like this before, because he has such a flair for them.

Whole Lotta Sole is just a pleasure to watch.  For a pure broad-based crowd-pleaser, it is probably the pick of this year’s Tribeca.  Highly recommended, it screens again tomorrow (4/25) and Saturday (4/28).