Edward Burns’ The Brothers McMullen put the star-writer-director-producer on the map after his micro-budgeted production won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance and earned general acclaim just about everywhere. The film does feature some bright dialogue and brought some fresh faces to cinemas, a few of whom like Burns and Connie Britton have since flourished in the business. The story is very slight and nothing new, but the film is so filled with personality that many people either didn’t notice or care.
The Brothers McMullen (Blu-ray)
Directed by Edward Burns
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 98 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 English; Dolby Digital 1.0 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 19.99
Release Date: September 25, 2012
Review Date: October 2, 2012
Three Irish-American brothers find themselves once again living under the same roof while waiting for their fortunes to change. Until then, Jack (Jack Mulcahy) is starting to have a wandering eye for the vampish Ann (Elizabeth P. McKay) after five years of marriage to Molly (Connie Britton) who now thinks it’s time to start a family; Patrick (Mike McGlone) wants to break things off with Susan (Shari Albert) when she starts talking marriage and going into the family business; confirmed bachelor Barry (Edward Burns) begins seeing casually the effervescent Audry (Maxine Bahns) but panics when he starts feeling something akin to love.
Edward Burns’ script bounces back and forth between the rather prosaic and unexceptional love lives of the three brothers, but the film’s most prescient moments occur when the brothers are interacting with one another, giving one another knuckleheaded advice or lending pithy comments to the actions and beliefs of the others. With the brothers steeped in Irish Catholic mores (even if two of the three have moved away from the church and all three seem to pick and choose which tenets of Catholicism they consider vital to their own needs), there’s a fair amount of religious talk in the mix, but it never becomes heavily or off-puttingly devout. Burns gives himself the film’s most famous monologue using a banana as a metaphor for his experiences with women, but there is also a very funny conversation between Patrick and Jack in a toilet that earns some of the film’s biggest laughs. Burns doesn’t do anything extraordinary with the camera in terms of fancy shots or breathtaking set-ups: the dialogue, as flowery and writerly as it sometimes is, clearly is the king of this set.
The film’s best performance is by Connie Britton as the level-headed Molly. Grounded and earnest but with a sense of fun buried beneath her very adult exterior, Britton makes Molly the most respectable and sympathetic character in the piece. Of the three brothers, Mike McGlone’s Patrick gets the most excited with his balancing of two different women in his life and is the most adept at delivering the pithy dialogue. Edward Burns actually comes off as the lightweight here performance-wise (he was juggling writing, producing, and directing along with giving a performance) and with the least interesting storyline. Jack Mulcahy has some effective moments as the straying Jack, but his performance isn’t always consistent; he occasionally seems less sure of what he’s doing with the character. Elizabeth P. McKay plays her one-dimensional husband stealer character well but with little nuance. Maxine Bahns handles her meet-cute with Burns well (the two were dating at the time) and makes an arresting presence in the film especially early-on.
The film is presented in its theatrical 1.85:1 aspect ratio and is offered in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Shot in 16mm and blown up for theatrical release, the transfer shows the signs of its original quality with very soft looking scenes especially interiors. Surprisingly, exteriors are notably sharper with better color saturation levels as well. Flesh tones are generally realistic and are consistently rendered. Black levels are average or slightly above. The transfer is clean, however, and does not show any age-related artifacts. The film has been divided into 20 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 sound mix is exactly what you’d expect for a very low budget affair. Dialogue, Seamus Egan’s Irish-tinged music, and sound effects all inhabit the same channel comfortably even though ADR use is quite noticeable when it occurs, and there seem to be occasional synch issues.
The audio commentary by Edward Burns tells the story of raising the money for his film and the erratic shooting schedule pretty much on the fly over an eight month period. He also points out continuity gaffes but shows a genuine pride with what he accomplished with his first film. Fans of the movie will enjoy hearing what he has to say.
“The Fox Movie Channel Presents Fox Legacy” features Tom Rothman repeating the story of Burns’ agonizing journey to getting the film made, the first under the Fox Searchlight banner. This 480i featurette runs 14 ½ minutes.
The theatrical trailer in 480i runs 2 minutes.
The case contains a 28-page booklet offering stills and program notes on the story, the production, and the cast.
3.5/5 (not an average)
Maybe not quite as innovative and fresh at it seemed to many back in 1995, The Brothers McMullen is still an earnest family romantic drama with some entertaining dialogue and several appealing characters.