There’s so much star power in the film that some of it is severely underutilized. For example, Anna Paquin, who is one of the best actresses of my generation, plays Peggy Sheeran, Frank’s daughter, and she has approximately one line in the film, while the rest of her performance is a lot of knowing glances. Jesse Plemons gets two hilarious scenes as Hoffa’s son, Chucky. Harvey Keitel and Bobby Cannavale get a tiny bit of screentime. It’s no mystery who the stars of the show are: Deniro, Pacino, and Pesci. Deniro’s performance is understated; even when Sheeran is committing heinous acts, he’s as cool as a cucumber. Oddly enough, Pesci’s Bufalino is the most subdued performance I have ever seen from the usually hyperkinetic actor. He’s an elder statesman in the film, the one who calls the shots and doesn’t get his hands dirty. Pacino is explosive as Hoffa, and while his acting is very classically on-brand, it’s been a long time since he’s been this damn good, and when I say good, I mean amazing. I will not be surprised if Pacino is nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his turn as Hoffa.
“…a story of hope, success, and failure…a sprawling behemoth of a film…”
Of course, it’s a Scorsese movie about the mafia, so there’s violence, but unlike Goodfellas or Casino, the violence is not as much at the fore of everything, it’s simply a fact of life. The Irishman is a reflection on the past of our country, told through the experience of one man, but felt by many others. The film is about the ever-changing world and how the good old days always end. It’s steeped in nostalgia, and the production and costume design brilliantly reflect that. It also shows how age changes us as people. It’s so much more than a story about mobsters. It’s a story of hope, success, and failure. It’s a sprawling behemoth of a film that surprisingly, considering its length, I already want to watch again.
I can’t leave without mentioning that this film was 10 years in the making, with a lot of time spent on some of the amazing special effects which allow Sheeran, Bufalino, and Hoffa to be shown throughout their lives without looking corny. Scorsese had to search high and low to find backing for the film, considering how expensive these special cameras and techniques are. Luckily, Netflix came to the rescue. Whatever you may feel about big-name directors foregoing wide releases and keeping most of the viewing to the small screen, it is because of Netflix that we get to see this beautiful opus that would have been a tragedy to go unmade. I sincerely hope you all check out The Irishman, it is a work of art made by one of film’s ultimate mastercraftsmen.
The Irishman screened at the 2019 New York Film Festival.