Intermission

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“Intermission” reminds me of “Love Actually,” but with most of the romance and charm removed, and some violence added. It’s an amusing film, and a likable one, but its ensemble of characters almost universally fails to engage our emotions the way it ought to.

The setting is Ireland, and the accents are thick. We open with Colin Farrell as a charming cad named Lehiff who flirts smoothly with a mall cashier before making us realize he is a wolf in sheep’s clothing — a petty thief, specifically, and one frequently pursued by a police officer named Jerry (Colm Meaney). Jerry, meanwhile, loves the spotlight and hopes his TV-producer friend Ben (Tomas O’Suilleabhain) can make a reality program about him.

Elsewhere, we meet the good-hearted but occasionally misguided John (Cillian Murphy), in the doldrums after having broken up with sweet Deirdre (Kelly Macdonald), which he now realizes was a foolish decision. Deirdre — whose mustachioed sister Sally (Shirley Henderson) was dreadfully mistreated by a previous boyfriend and now mistrusts all men — has taken up with a married man, Sam (Michael McElhatton), who has left his wife for her.

John’s best friend Oscar (David Wilmot) is earnest but increasingly desperate in the love department, renting porn regularly and eventually visiting a nightclub known for attracting … well, people who are desperate in the love department. There he meets Noeleen (Deirdre O’Kane), who happens to be Sam’s just-dumped wife, and who likes it rough in the bedroom.

There are more characters, and more stories, and more connections between them all, but we’d be here all day if I enumerated them. Besides, half the fun of the movie is seeing it all unfold, and being drawn into the small, interconnecting worlds of these characters.

The question is, is it ENOUGH fun? Directed by John Crowley and written by Mark O’Rowe, both in their feature debuts, this tableau of working-class Irish folks has flashes of greatness — I love the simple, sweet way that Oscar’s story finally pans out — but is mostly only a mild diversion, not anything that truly connects.

It has its charms, particularly in the performances, but then it has flashes of violence that jolt us — not so much because of their brutality (though that is a factor), but because the film doesn’t seem like “that” kind of film. It is neither dark nor funny enough to be a “dark comedy,” nor is it romantic or funny enough to be a “romantic comedy.” It’s just sort of a comedy, with dashes of other elements thrown in to keep us on our toes. It works, and then it sort of doesn’t.

B- (1 hr., 41 min.; R, tons of harsh profanity, some sexuality, brief partial nudity, a bit of violence.)

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