"Very long and very good", Scorsese's tough guy cast of Pacino, Pesci, De Niro are difficult to watch at times but the true tragedy is that the female character's stories from Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran life are not explored more.
It is very long and very good. I speak of Martin Scorsese’s epic The Irishman, which I was lucky enough to catch last week along with a Q&A session afterward with Pacino, Pesci, De Niro and Scorsese. (No first names needed, thank you very much.)
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At times, it’s a little difficult watching all of these guys in their seventies try to recapture the vim and vigor of earlier gangster classics like Goodfellas and Casino. There’s an early violent scene with De Niro and his daughter Peggy that is very important to the story, but, um, doesn’t really work visually.
Still, as The Irishman unfolds, this advanced age actually becomes central to the story. Which, by the way, is a very good one, implying that these goons and gangsters somehow became central players in some of the most important dramas of post-war America - the election and assassination of JFK, the Bay of Pigs, Watergate.
All the while, the likes of Frank “the Irishman” Sheeran and his associates were lurking in the shadows. At times they were reveling in their power and glory. Other times, they were figuring it out on the fly, acting before thinking, worrying about the details (and the bodies, and the blood) later.
A lot will be said about Sheeran and Jimmy Hoffa and so many of the other characters in The Irishman as the theatrical release date, November 1, approaches. For now, I’d like to focus on two people in the film -- two Irish women in this very manly environment -- who are not likely to get as much attention as these Hollywood legends.
First, there’s Mary Leddy, or Mary Sheehan as she became once she married “the Irishman.” It’s too bad that a three and a half hour movie couldn’t find much time for the Irish immigrant woman that would have Sheeran’s three children. Their first meeting alone -- a boxing kangaroo is involved -- would have made a great movie scene.
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“She had beautiful dark-brown hair and the prettiest Irish face I had ever seen,” Sheeran told Charles Brandt, whose book I Heard You Paint Houses is the basis for The Irishman.
“Mary loved me, but her family hated me,” adds Sheeran, who was 83 when he died in 2003. “They thought I was what they used to call shanty Irish, and I guess they thought they were lace-curtain Irish.”
Presumably, it didn’t help that, in 1947, they were married at West Philly’s Mother of Sorrows church, where Sheeran “had gotten bounced as an altar boy for drinking the wine.”
Either way, Mary was there when Sheeran began his rise through the Northeast underworld. Raising three daughters. She died in 2005, which is too bad. She surely had her own stories to tell.
Then there is Mary and Frank’s daughter Peggy. Without spoiling too much of the plot, Peggy Sheeran plays a central role in the film by the time it wraps up.
It might even be tempting to think this emotional twist in The Irishman was invented by its very talented, Oscar-winning screenwriter Steven Zaillian (Gangs of New York, Schindler’s List).
But the film’s heartbreaking details are borne out by Sheeran’s own words in the book I Heard You Paint Houses.
And consider this: Both of Peggy Sheeran’s parents are gone, but she is still very much with us. Her sister, Dolores, spoke at length to Brandt. She pretty much has the final word in the book.
“I feel like we’ve lived under this black cloud forever,” said Dolores. “I want it to be over. My father is finally at peace now. I would like the same for (Jimmy Hoffa’s) family.”
It’s safe to say The Irishman – which has received rave reviews and will likely score many Oscar nominations -- is going to generate massive interest in the Sheerans in general, and Peggy in particular.
“The Irishman” may finally be at peace. Not so much just yet for his daughters.
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