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Love's a Funny Thing in 'When Brendan Met Trudy'


One would be hard pressed to imagine a more narcissistic kind of love story than a romantic comedy that is in love with the movies. The introverted hero of "When Brendan Met Trudy" is not merely an obsessive movie nerd, he seems particularly enamored of films such as "Sunset Boulevard" and "Breathless," whose chief reference points are other movies.

Even the title of this Irish film hearkens back to a signature romantic comedy from the '80s--albeit one that would never darken the favorites list of cineaste Brendan (Peter McDonald), whose idea of a date movie is Darius Tomaszewski's "Kooti Goes to Warsaw." When Brendan is not at the movies, the 28-year-old schoolteacher sings hymns for his church choir and watches more movies at home on TV. He is so distracted by his mediated reality that his class begins to take on the unruly air of that French boarding-school classic "Zero for Conduct."

As these things go, Brendan falls in love with a philistine whose only requirements for a movie are that it should not be serious, not star Emma Thompson and not be in black and white. Trudy (Flora Montgomery, resembling a down-market Princess Di) wears a leather jacket, goes to hip parties attended by Nigerian refugees and works at a Montessori school. Or so she claims. Strangely enough, we never see her in the workplace, and Brendan can't understand why she is always flying out the door after a bout of lovemaking only to reappear in the morning for breakfast.

Trudy's nefarious secret life takes over the film's second half, but it is Brendan's ardor for the movies that gives this engaging romantic dance (scripted by Booker Prize-winner Roddy Doyle) its zestiest moments. McDonald is a sweet-pussed charmer as the eternally earnest Brendan, who scrawls indifferent lesson plans on the blackboard ("Jane Austen loves a good laugh; discuss with reference to "Persuasion") and adorns his home with Fassbinder posters.

The cineaste in us only wishes that Brendan had more eccentric taste: a man who gives his mother a Godard biography isn't likely to be boning up yet again on "The African Queen." But Doyle and director Kieron Walsh get a surprising amount of fresh comic mileage out of greatest hits, no more so than when it conflates Norma Desmond with Mel Brooks or gives an "American Graffiti"-style post-mortem on the ultimate fates of its characters. "When Brendan Met Trudy" is a plucky comic valentine for those who love the movies more than their own mothers.

* No rating. Times guidelines: Lighthearted in tone, but some nudity and sexual content.

'When Brendan Met Trudy'

Peter McDonald: Brendan

Flora Montgomery: Trudy

Pauline McLynn: Nuala

Marie Mullen: Mother

A Deadly Films 2 production, released by Shooting Gallery. Director Kieron J. Walsh. Producer Lynda Miles. Screenplay by Roddy Doyle. Cinematographer Ashley Rowe. Editor Scott Thomas. Costume designer Consolata Boyle. Music Richard Hartley. Production designer Fiona Daly. Art director Susie Cullen. Running time: 1 hour, 35 minutes.

Exclusively at Loews Cineplex Fairfax Theatre, 7907 Beverly Blvd, Hollywood, (323) 653-3117.

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