Moving On: A Review of “The Irishman”

Any film by Martin Scorsese is destined (or, perhaps more aptly described as “doomed”) to become Oscar bait. Add in big-name actors like Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, a mystery steeped in Americana lore, and a hefty dose of nostalgia and…you have whatever The Irishman is.

In truth, I was bored from fifteen minutes in until the end more than three hours later.

The film is the recounting of mobster Frank Sheeran’s (no relation to Ed Sheeran) life as a member of the American mafia, especially his ties to the infamous Jimmy Hoffa–whose disappearance has never been solved. As Frank moves up in the ranks, Hoffa’s power begins to slip out of his grasp, eventually culminating into what could be the very likely scenario of Hoffa’s death.

That’s it. That’s the movie. Or, sorry, Scorsese would prefer us to say “picture.,” a nod to a bygone era of Hollywood.

In fact, I would argue that the entire point of The Irishman is to brew us a cup of film nostalgia so strong that we’ll be tasting it for years afterward. It is a male-dominated story of the “good ole days” that relies entirely on exposition and an audience interested in mid-20th century American mobsters to sell it. It is a film that is certain to be popular only with the same demographic that has dominated Hollywood since its conception over 100 years ago.

For the life of me, I can only recall one woman speaking throughout the entire film (logically, I know there was more because Anna Paquin was also in the film, yet only one line said by a woman stuck out to me, and it wasn’t Anna Paquin). Toward the end of the film, an elderly Frank Sheeran is in a retirement home and his nurse sees a picture of his daughter with Jimmy Hoffa. The nurse doesn’t recognize Hoffa, to which Sheeran laughs and says something like “of course you wouldn’t.”

Perhaps this is Scorsese’s cheeky way of saying we wouldn’t recognize a classic film if it was staring us in the face, but, truthfully, I’d like to think of it as more a realization that the world–and Hollywood–has moved on, and it is only through nostalgia that Hollyweird’s “golden age” can be recaptured. More likely, The Irishman is Scorsese’s swan song, a blip of a film in a world where my eighteen-year-old students have never heard of Taxi Driver or even know how to spell Scorsese.

The Oscars are a little over a week away, and now that I’ve finally begun my film reviews of the Best Picture nominees…I can officially say that this review should have been about The Farewell instead because it is far more representative of the world–and the Hollywood–that we live in.