Thursday, February 23, 2017

Oscar Movie Review: "My Left Foot" (1989)

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Year Nominated: 1990
Director: Jim Sheridan
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 43 minutes
Did It Win?: No.

The life story of disabled Irish artist and writer Christy Brown (Daniel Day-Lewis), who was born with Cerebral Palsy and found passion in life through his paintings and writings.

"My Left Foot" is the directorial debut of Jim Sheridan. He also wrote the screenplay along with Shane Connaughton. The film is based on the novel by Christy Brown himself. It stars Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays the aforementioned Christy Brown. Day-Lewis and Sheridan would actually go on to work together a few more times with films like "In the Name of the Father," and "The Boxer," both of which are incredible movies. Joining Lewis are Brenda Fricker, who plays Christy's mother, Ray McAnally, who plays his father, Hugh O'Connor, who plays a young Christy Brown, Fiona Shaw, who plays his therapist Dr. Eileen Cole, and Ruth McCabe, who plays Christy's future wife Mary Carr..

This biopic follows the life of artist, poet, and novelist Christy Brown, covering his early life growing up in Ireland, the days when he was pushed around in a wooden wheelbarrow because his family couldn't afford a wheelchair, up to the time he met his wife Mary Carr. Daniel Day-Lewis puts on a magnificent performance as the Cerebral Palsy-striken Brown. Being a method actor, word is Day-Lewis would stay in character constantly on set, which must have been quite the task for those who worked with him as he performed such an intense part. He does such a stellar job, it is actually hard to tell he is an able-bodied person simply acting as a disabled man. So often in cinema, people who are not disabled get these big parts to play and don't do them justice, straddling the line between potentially offensive and forgettable. Here, Day-Lewis clearly put massive amounts of effort into studying each and every move of those with this disability, making sure to pay careful respect to those who really have Cerebral Palsy. His performance earned him a much deserved best actor Oscar award. He's not the only nominee or winner from this picture for that matter. Brenda Fricker took home a best supporting actress Oscar, and the film was nominated for best picture, director, and adapted screenplay in addition to those wins.

Phenomenal acting aside, overall, "My Left Foot" suffers from being a rather basic biopic that at times feels a bit meandering despite its relatively short run time. It does a good job in displaying Brown's plight and the struggles of growing up both in poverty in Ireland and as a disabled boy in poverty in Ireland, but doesn't really focus on his art and writing all that much. It also does not continue into the tragedy of his later life and ends with a very truncated, skimmed Hollywood happy ending. Though we can't fault the filmmaker and those behind the scenes for this choice, we must say we are perplexed why they took such a route knowing how Brown really died later in life. Why not tell the truth and bring awareness to what happened so it never occurs again? In the end, it does feel like we kind of know Christy Brown the person, but we don't wind up knowing much about Christy Brown the artist, apart from his desire to drink and his occasional bouts of inspiration.


My Rating: 7.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.9/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 97%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
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Last Oscar season, we were watching: "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bob"

Two Oscar seasons ago, we were watching: "Bonnie and Clyde"

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