By On the occasion of our 20th anniversary
By Gustavo Arellano
By R. Scott Moxley
By Alfonso Delgado
By Courtney Hamilton
By Joel Beers
By Peter Maguire
By Charles Lam
Patient: Nora Profile: A movie about the fascinating relationship between James Joyce and companion Nora Barnacle that manages to avoid being fascinating, informative or interesting. Think Henry and June meets Angela's Ashes.
Symptoms: A relationship only seemingly screen-worthy because one of the people involved was JAMES JOYCE! Beyond the fact that he's JAMES JOYCE! they're just like any other couple of schlubs who laugh, argue and have gnarly (and not in the good way) letter-sex. (Joyce's erotic missives suggest that while he may be the 20th century's greatest author, he'd have a hard time getting his stuff published in Penthouse's Forum. I haven't heard such gross naughty talk since Prince Charles mused about being a tampon.) The film's attempt to show how the relationship influenced his writing comes off as forced and flat. Every 14 minutes or so, Joyce mentions that something, anything—the rain, a hat, the burned roast—is "just like Ireland." They make a big deal of Joyce suspecting his wife of infidelity, possibly influencing his later writings, which dealt with betrayal. But if obsessing over your woman's betrayal was all it took to become a great writer, then where in the hell is Ike Turner's Nobel Prize? The film's characters have a tendency not to talk like people from Joyce's time but rather like people who write critical essays about people from Joyce's time, proclaiming, "James is a genius!" when the movie is set before Joyce had published Dubliners and wasn't JAMES JOYCE! but just another drunken mick.
Prescription: Just because a guy is a famous writer doesn't mean his life is interesting. This is why the Thomas Brothers bio-pic had such a hard time getting financing. The filmmakers should take a clue from a couple of movies. First, Amadeus. If this period of Joyce's life isn't all that interesting, make up some stuff that is and throw him into it. Or Shadowlands, a film about how the death of his wife tested the faith and writings of C.S. Lewis. That movie was terrific because Lewis had already created something, and the movie showed how his art stood up against his life. Nora falls flat because what Joyce is creating is neither seen or tied to anything on the screen.