Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Brendan O’Carroll gets it wrong about The Irish Times on Marian

Brendan O’Carroll says we were “racist” when discussing his film. Unfortunately, none of the comments referenced actually appeared in the paper

Sun, Jun 29, 2014, 20:44


Brendan O’Carroll generally makes light of the critics, but we can understand if, underneath the bluster, he actually cares more than he makes out. The man works hard and, as I wrote last week, most decent folk, even those who hate Mrs Brown’s Boys, won’t begrudge him his success. A few raw spots were revealed when he was standing in for Marian Finucane on RTE Radio 1, this weekend. About an hour and a half into the show, Joe Duffy brought up the overwhelmingly negative reviews that Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie, the film version of Brendan’s hit TV series, had been receiving over the last few days. He was particularly critical of the Arena arts show on RTE. Duffy (who has a cameo in D’ Movie) noted that, in their review, critics on that show had made “serious” accusations against the film including that of racism. Such criticisms should not be made lightly. You’re quite right, Joe.

Pressed as to whether the brickbats ever got to him, O’Carroll did eventually yield somewhat. One negative review of his wife Jennifer Gibney’s performance seemed to have drawn blood. That’s fair enough. It is only right that he stands up for his own. Then there was The Irish Times. It sounded as if we had really overstepped the mark.

“What I loved about the Irish Times — well, not loved, but found interesting — was that they said the same thing,” he said “They said it was racist — where you had this ‘Indian man’ who keeps saying he’s not from Jamaica. He’s actually from Pakistan. Describing him as ‘Indian’ just because of the way he looks is actually racist. I was very offended by The Irish Times.”

Well, this seems like a well argued point. We are hoist by our own whatever. The gag in the film deals with our idiotic assumptions about immigrants and, in this case, the journalist (presumably me) had, while calling “racism”, made just the sort of offensive error that O’Carroll was satirising. He wasn’t quite finished. At the end of the show, as a cutting send off, he delivered another dig at this paper. “If you want to look in The Irish Times they only gave my movie one star, but they gave a fantastic five stars to a wonderful Mexican movie — subtitled — that is about a Guatemalan Indian.”

Here’s the crunch. Just about the only thing O’Carroll got right was the five stars Tara Brady awarded to The Golden Dream (which, despite being “subtitled”, I recommend). I did not say the Mrs Brown’s Boys film was “racist”. I made no mention whatsoever of the Pakistani character. The film did not get one star; it got a hearty two stars. I don’t deny that I didn’t much enjoy Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie. But I felt that I gave it more of a fair hearing than many critics.

It’s all rather odd. The interview we ran on Friday with O’Carroll was, in my view, fairly balanced about him and about his career. It seemed clear that, whereas I was not a fan of the show, I thought O’Carroll a funny man and an all-round good egg. As Joe Duffy said, it’s a serious thing to accuse a person — or a newspaper — of racism. O’Carroll is within his rights to chastise us for any rough comments about his work or personality. But it seems a little unfair to criticise us for things we didn’t say.