The Snapper

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Our rating: three lava lamps.

Information about this film in the Internet Movie Database.

The Curley family.
Watching a movie like The Snapper can be a humbling experience for those of us in the U.S. The Snapper joins several other productions, like Britain's Antonia's Line and Sweden's Best Intentions, as foreign made-for-TV projects good enough to be shown in American movie theaters. Meanwhile, TV movies on this side of the Atlantic are obsessed with hitting certain hot button topics, then framing them from the perspective of a fretful mother. At this moment cloning is a hot topic, so we are being treated to a seemingly endless stream of TV movies about cloning, most often the story of a mother finding out her child has been cloned without her knowledge. But we don't worry, because all we have to do is weather it out, and soon we'll be treated to a seemingly endless stream of TV movies about something else. Probably mothers finding out that their cloned septuplets are being baby-sat by British au-pairs on fertility drugs, if the headlines are any indication.

The Snapper is best described as a slice-of-life drama, set in Ireland. It is also a semi-sequel to The Commitments, though the names of the characters have been changed, because the production companies are different. Nonetheless, they are each a part of the same series of stories. The Snapper tells the story of Sharon Curley, who gets pregnant out of wedlock. Sharon's family, led by patriarch Dessie Curley (Colm Meaeny), is initially very supportive of Sharon.

Most of The Snapper centers around the huge Curley family and the quirks of its members. The oldest son returns from the the Gulf War. The youngest daughter is trying out to be majorette. And Mr. Curley's idea of good time is watching TV, going down to the pub to drink Guinness with his pals, and engaging in the occasional round of shagging with his wife. Capital, eh?

Tina Kellegher (left) as Sharon
and Colm Meaney as Dessie.
Complications to this rather simple scenario arise when it becomes known that the father of Sharon's child might be one of Mr. Curley's friends, a married man and father of two named George Burgess. Although Sharon denies this and tells her friends about a Spanish sailor she met at a party, it soon becomes fairly obvious that Burgess is indeed the father.

The best thing about The Snapper is the sense of family evident in the every day life of the Curleys. When we say "family film" in the States, we're usually referring to saccharine feel-good comedies that skirt around serious issues and go for the easy laugh. This movie, on the other hand, actually shows a family dealing with (gasp!) important family issues, like unexpected pregnancy, in a realistic manner. Although taken aback at first, the family soon rallies around Sharon, despite the increasing difficulties of her all-too-public pregnancy in a small town.

Without a doubt, the real star of The Snapper is Colm Meaney. Meaney, best known for his chief engineer character Miles O'Brien on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, is the best thing about this movie. His performance is masterful, and just listening to him spout Irish slang is a pleasure. And the crass but caring Mr. Curley is a great character. "You're dead," he matter-of-factly yells at one of his teenage sons at a stressful moment. If you've ever wanted to see O'Brien swear like a sailor, this is your chance.

The Snapper is a rich film, the kind of film that doesn't rely on shocking plot twists to entertain viewers. It serves up a dozen interesting characters who say interesting and funny things while dealing with real life situations. If only we saw more of that on American television. Then our cloned septuplets and their babysitters might stop watching Full House re-runs.

Rent or Buy from Reel.

Review date: 12/4/97

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