Cows Are Here
(Note: contains spoilers!)
Once upon a time, in 1923, on an island off the coast of Ireland, a man, a fiddler, seemingly out of the blue, told his everyday drinking buddy that he didn’t want to hang out with him anymore; the drinking budddy, understandably hurt, kept hanging around, and eventually the fiddler took extreme measures to try, ever more desperately, to get the drinking buddy to leave him alone.
Then a hundred years later, someone made a movie of that, and a lady watched the movie with her friend and tried to think of something to write about it. And here we are.
Friendships are complicated. They’re made up, after all, of people, who are infuriatingly complicated creatures, so it makes a kind of sense. One of my dearest friends uses this metaphor to describe friendship and its weirdness: all people are oddly-shaped objects, with sharp edges and round parts and indentations, every one different, like a fingerprint; some people fit well with each other, but even the closest of friends can tumble, over time, into positions where they don’t fit as great as they used to. That’s ok, and it’s probably temporary (I find this metaphor very helpful for those times when a friendship is strained, or needs some maintenance or a break).
Colm, Brendan Gleeson’s character in Banshees, is done trying to fit with Colin Farrell’s character, Padraic. He insists that trying to make this friendship work even one more second is forcing it; but in so doing, he himself is forcing a separation that probably could happen more organically (although that wouldn’t be as fun of a movie). Probably if they both chilled out and tried to be a little more Zen about the whole thing, they both would have ended up much better off than they eventually do at the end of the movie.
Doug and I, bumpy objects that we both are, didn’t quite line up on this film. This weekend, recording a conversation with Doug as we took a long walk through a mostly deserted post-rain Seattle, I asked him more than once what I should do for this entry. “You’ll think of something,” he said; this must have been early in the conversation, before I was wondering out loud whether this wouldn’t turn out to be an Adaptation-style meandering about what I was going to write about.
(Adaptation is one of those movies that’s most useful to me as a cultural reference. If I say I’m supposed to write something but it might turn out Adaptation-style, you immediately know what I mean by that. Thank God for those movies, am I right? This is fun: I’m going to name a movie and you, playing along at home, will know exactly the extremely specific situation I’m talking about.
Weekend at Bernie’s. [This is probably my favorite. Do you think the person whose idea this was imagined that decades later, people would still be using “Weekend at Bernie’s” as a verb, and that every single person who heard that would immediately imagine a dead guy in sunglasses? Isn’t that a beautiful thing?]
Last one, for which I have to credit my favorite podcast, How Did This Get Made?, which analyzes bad movies: on HDTGM, they track what they refer to as “Jacob’s ladder scenarios,” in which a character dies at some point in the movie and the rest of the movie is their afterlife dream/hallucination/final thoughts.)
Anyway! Here are my Adaptation-like notes on this film and on my conversation with Doug. I hope you enjoy the Sliding Doors treatment of what this entry could have been and where it ended up, a happy medium that, spoiler, may or may not involve the cast of The Jersey Shore.
Doug is Irish! Was his family in Ireland at around the time that Banshees takes place? No. They were already in the U.S. at that point. Okay, well, how about how Irish this movie is? Doug said he thought that aside from shots of the landscape and the accents, this really could have taken place anywhere.
All right, well now it’s time to address an elephant in the room: Doug thought that Brendan Gleeson’s character was a big silly idiot who behaved insanely for no reason (when Padraic won’t leave him alone, Colm starts to cut off his fingers to show him he means business). It’s magical realism, I said; it’s whatever you want to call it, it’s askew, it’s not entirely in the real world, it’s exaggerated for effect. Doug wasn’t into it.
Here’s the briefest of sidebars on when someone isn’t into something you think is great: it’s fine. It’s not a big deal. I thought the spooky dark fairytale vibe was awesome in this movie and I was all about those fingers coming off, but I don’t begrudge anyone not being won over by, well, anything. You could sit me down and explain to me why the car chase we’re about to watch is the best directed action sequence in the history of cinema, and I would still fall asleep watching it, because I find car chases super boring and they all make me fall asleep, yes, even that one.
Pet finger peeves
Okay, I ask Doug, so what are some things that drive you so crazy, you’d cut off your fingers to make them stop? He gives me a look like, this conversation is getting me there. He says you’d want to pick something that would never happen, and then you wouldn’t have to cut any fingers off, right? I say I guess that’s one way to go but maybe for a hypothetical situation you could just go along with the premise. He says he can’t think of anything. This is probably around the time when I float my Adaptation idea.
Later on our walk, we pass a guy with a leaf blower, and Doug says he would cut off his fingers if it meant he never had to hear a leaf blower again. I’m with him there. Leaf blowers are bullshit. They’re loud as fuck and terrible for the environment and useless. Guess what’s not hurting anyone at all? Leaves. LEAVE THE LEAVES ALONE.
The promised land
Let’s break it down, I say, let’s stop messing around and really get to it: who would each of the characters in this movie be if they were a cast member from The Jersey Shore?
Now we’re talking.
Padraic, Colin Farrell’s character, would be Vinny, says Doug. Vinny, or the Keto Guido, as he’s branded himself in recent years, means well but can fade into the background a little. “Hey guys, I’m here too!” is Vin’s vibe. Like sweet Padraic, he’s mostly pure of heart. “He always says to ladies, ‘Hey, we can smush, but I’m going to be smushing other ladies too,’” Doug tells me. “He’s all about empowering women!”
Ronnie (or “Big, Dumb Ron”) is Doug’s pick to play Brendan Gleeson’s Colm. I ask Doug what Ronnie’s primary motivations are; fighting people, he says (“And lying,” Doug adds, then tells me about a classic episode where Ronnie lies about his chain getting stolen when he went to Secaucus). Ronnie wouldn’t cut off his fingers, Doug says; if he wanted someone to stop hanging out with him, he’d say, “I’m gonna beat you up today, and then if you come back tomorrow, I’ll beat you up again tomorrow.”
Our supporting cast is rounded out with Deena as Dominic, a simple young man played beautifully by Barry Keoghan; J-Woww as Kerry Condon as Padraic’s sister Siobhan; and of course, world-renowned DJ Pauly D (also known as “your girl’s favorite DJ”) as the bartender.
Where are Snooki and Sammi and The Situation? Well, Banshees takes place on a rural, remote, sparsely populated island, so I think they’re probably all farm animals.
And there you have it! Sometimes friends chop off their own fingers to shake things up; sometimes you just have to walk around for a while and find the right reality TV to talk about, and everyone’s fingers can be spared.
P.S. I hope you, too, are a Jersey Shore officionado and appreciated the hilarious title “Cows Are Here” — credit to Doug for that one — but if not, don’t worry, watch this and then you can appreciate it too.