Newport Beach Film Festival Gets Its Irish Up: The O'Brien's, The Iceman, What Maisie Knew

Categories: Film

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The less is more strategy to improve overall quality and fill houses seems to be working at the halfway mark of the 2013 Newport Beach Film Festival.

Based on the screenings I've attended, you can't swing your elbows without hitting someone like you could in the past. Crowds seem to be digging it all over. The always-popular Irish Spotlight screening was more than sold out Sunday night.

Folks with tickets had to be turned away from the 5:30 p.m. world premiere of the quirky family dysfunction comedy The O'Brien's at Regal's Newport Cinemas, so NBFF CEO Gregg Schwenck on the spot announced to the crowd a second screening at 5:30 tonight at The Triangle in Costa Mesa.

No need flirting with fire code regulations, especially since there's a good chance those enforcing them are Irish.

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The O'Brien's
What those making it out tonight will be in for is an engaging little picture filled with more than a couple laugh-out-loud moments. The patriach (Tommy O'Neill) of a family that lost its beloved matriarch a couple years earlier summons his grown children to his Galway-area farm for unspecified reasons.

The kids fear the worst, but when they discover the reason they react in different ways. The oldest son, Fionn (Liam McMahon), who jetted in from New York with his American bimbette Lauren (Amber Jean Rowan), is happy with the news. Middle daughter Una (Slaine Kelly, who co-wrote the script and you may know from The Tudors) is less pleased, but she's less pleased about just about everything due to the rigors of motherhood and the collapse of her husband Brendan's (Lochlainn O'Mearain) business. Downright hostile to dad's revelation is youngest son Gareth (Emmett Hughes, the other co-writer).

You pretty much know where this is headed, but it is an enjoyable ride getting there thanks to nice pacing from first-time director Richard Waters. It always amazes me how indie filmmakers with no budgets can produce visually stunning shots. Waters is not guilty of that. This film is more performance-driven. On that note, Kelly, O'Neill, Hughes and Paddy C. Courtney, as the town's everyman (literally) who provides welcome comic relief, are the standouts.

The O'Brien's was warmly received by the Newport Beach audience, and Kelly told me at the post-party a few steps away at Muldoon's Irish Pub how surprised and gratified she was by the positive reception she was getting from Irish Americans in particular. Of course, her mood going into the world premiere was uplifted by the picture postcard weather in Newport this past weekend, quite different than the damp, dreary soup she left behind.

Click here for tickets to The O'Brien's tonight. You never know, there may still be some cast and crew members still partying afterward at Muldoon's.
* * *

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The Great Santini is wangled.
The funniest film I have seen at the festival so far was part of the OCC Shorts program earlier Sunday at the Lido Theatre in Newport Beach. Wangled is from father/son, producer/director-writer Richard and Alastair Purvis, who both hail from the Orange Coast College Film/Video program (the son before the father).

The script is smart, the direction is tight and the actresses playing scheming women are believable. But it is their target, played brilliantly by Alan Santini, who really propels this little sucker. Those who live in the beach city surrounding this festival should recognize him by his perfect appearance, expensive car and love affair with himself.

There are no repeat showings scheduled for Wangled at NBFF so search for it online.

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