“It’ll play for a week,” shrugs failing movie theater owner Whitey (Peter Riegert) in reference to a movie poster. The film? The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Whoops! There’s a temptation when making a period piece, particularly one in the not-too-distant past, to overload on winking era signifiers. The amusingly titled, but otherwise not very amusing, White Irish Drinkers practically ODs on them. How do we know it’s set in the ’70s? At one point one of the titular white Irish drinkers boasts of a school that has a computer that’s “so small it fits in one room.” Later, a man is idly reading the daily newspaper with the infamous headline “Ford to City: Drop Dead.” Also, disco? Wasn’t that weird!
Thing is, White Irish Drinkers could easily take place today, or in the ’80s, or in the 1880s. It’s a generic tale told down through the decades: Two Brooklyn brothers exist on opposite sides of life. Older Danny (Geoffrey Wigdor) is a derelict, thief and over-actor; younger Brian (Nick Thurston), is kindly and so sensitive he has a secret knack for tasteful painting. Their dad (Stephen Lang) a surly lout and their mom (Karen Allen, cruelly never allowed to share a scene with her Animal House paramour Riegert) weak-willed and nobly suffering, the two re-enact Mean Streets , among plenty others.
Perpetrated by Ghost Whisperer maven John Gravy, White Irish Drinkers screams quasi-autobiography, or at least reflects films he grew up watching.
Everything that happens you’ve seen before, except for a scene where Brian and girl pal streak through a cemetery, which you’ve never seen before for a reason. The thin plot revolves around Riegert’s neighborhood theater improbably scoring a night with the Stones, which yields dialogue like, “When Jagger sees this place he’s going to have his 20th nervous breakdown.” Only in its final minute does this moth-ridden shrug-fest do something genuinely unexpected—a sudden jolt of emotion that’s authentic and, more importantly, not pilfered from superior entertainments.