What Jeannie Did – ★★★
Kirsten Sheridan’s third feature film tells the story of five young troubled Dubliners who break into a salubrious property facing the Irish Sea and set about “wrecking the gaff” but inadvertently learn a few things about themselves and each other.
Leading the troop are Johnny Ward’s skin-headed terror Eanna and Kate Brennan’s pulled-back ponytail wearing Denise. The two are flanked by two under-developed characters (Shane Curry’s Shane and Ciaran McCabe’s Darren) and the more mysterious Jeannie (Seána Kerslake) who it quickly transpires is much more familiar with the property than she is letting on. Midway through the night they’re joined by What Richard Did’s Jack Reynor who plays much the same privileged southsider role as he did in Lenny Abrahamson’s film; his real purpose to try and spark a bit of a class war and create a juxtaposition between youths on two ends of society.
Dollhouse’s dialogue feels largely improvised and, unusually for an production dealing with Dublin’s youth *cough* Fair City *cough*, you do feel that people are actually talking the way that they would in the real world. What a novelty. The film was made with just a 15-page outline with Sheridan opting to shoot the film sequentially giving the actors new scene outlines day by day. This gives the film a distinctive and edgy energy but does also mean that it feels a little disjointed as we bob along with tensions raising sharply and then dropping as each threat is navigated and avoided.
| o | – I just asked for a euro for a hostel!
While Sheridan’s direction is largely competent, she also edited the film and is definitely at her best when putting together some of the film’s musical sequences. There are three or four of these which really stand out as high points in the film – Jeannie’s “bath breakdown” in particular – and if the scenes linking them together were structured a bit better we’d have a stand-out piece of work on our hands.
Dollhouse is a product of the Ringsend film facility known as “The Factory”, which aims to give a creative space to film-makers and is headed up by Sheridan, Lance Daly (Kisses), and Once director John Carney whose latest project The Rafters should see a release next year. The Factory is set up to allow Irish films to go through the full production process from script-writing right through to post-production.
Despite a mass of reservations following an incredibly dodgy trailer which hinted at a film that has more in common with MTV’s Jersey Shore than the final feature, it’s a relief to report that Sheridan has actually put together a pretty decent film. Despite a disjointed feeling, a pretty out-there final act and some problems with the characters, Dollhouse still deserves to sit alongside Abrahamson’s What Richard Did as one of the two society-defining Irish films of the year.
Ireland / Directed By: Kirsten Sheridan / Written By: Kirsten Sheridan / Starring: Seána Kerslake, Johnny Ward, Kate Stanley Brennan, Jack Reynor, Shane Curry, Ciaran McCabe / 95min / Drama / Release: 7 December 2012 (Ireland)