Manic But No Dream Girl

Pixie (Barnaby Thompson, 2020)

There is a great film in here trying to get out — but it just throws too much into it. This isn’t the first two men and a woman crime caper movie — it’s a long time since I saw it, but Shooting Fish springs to mind — and its rural Irish/Northern Irish location gave it a feel of some of the films Channel 4 made in the 1980s. Musically, it wants to be a western, especially of the western variety, but the caption Once Upon a Time in the West of Ireland gag is a one off and risks being mistaken as the film’s actual title.

Which is Pixie.

So Pixie (Olivia Cooke) is a beautiful young woman, ready to cause mayhem, and the object of lust of best friends Harland (Daryl McCormack) and Frank (Ben Hardy), who follow her back to her house in the hooes of getting off with her — in the process running over her ex, who has a holdall full of pills. What they don’t seem to know, as they hatch a plan to sell these to their dealer’s supplier, is that Pixie is part of an Irish mafia family led by her stepfather Dermot O’Brien (Colm Meaney) who has been in a historic turf war with drug dealing priests led by Father Hector McGrath (Alec Baldwin). McGrath wants the drugs back, as do the O’Briens, and Pixie wants the money so she can go to San Francisco to study photography.

The way you do.

Frank and Harland are out of the depths, clearly, and this does lead to funny moments, but there perhaps ought to be a bit more reaction to having to deal with death and violence rather than seeing it as all cool. There’s even some boy on boy action, that might have set up a more interesting and transgressive ending than the one we get (assuming they didn’t want to go the full Treasure of the Sierra Madre route).

Where’s Mrs Wilberforce to inadvertantly end up with all the money when you really need her? Ealing was more radical than this, in the end, and did it sixty years ago. [I wrote this before discovering Thompson ran Ealing Films in a later incarnation.]

Meaney brings some literally solid interest to the unexpected dimensions of his character, but presumably only had a couple of days of shooting and thus not enough shared screen time with Baldwin, who haunts us with what could have been if his cameo had been just a little longer.

Pixie, a clearly strong and amoral protagonist, is clearly not the manic pixie dream girl, but it’s almost as if they were so proud of wrong footing us on this that they didn’t quite have the energy to do enough with a dozen or so minor characters who might have had a film in their own right but are only there for a scene or two.

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