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February 16, 1990     The Message
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February 16, 1990

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0 The Message -- for Catholics of Southwestern Indiana Entertainment February 16, 1990 Playing character with cerebral palsey changed actor By SR. MARY ANN WALSH Catholic News Service WASHINGTON (CNS) -- Playing artist-writer Christy Brown in the movie "My Left Foot" changed young Irish Catholic a,ctor Hugh O'Conor because it taught him what a severely handicapped person goes through "every day of his life." The role "had to change me," said 14-year-old O'Conor, who played Brown as a child in the Miramax release that was rated best film of 1989 by the New York Film Critics Circle. Born in 1932, Brown was one of 13 surviving children in a poor, close-knit Dublin family. He was almost totally crippled and unable to speak because of cerebral palsy, and was thought by doctors to be mentally in- competent. Nevertheless, with little formal education and his mother's constant love, he grew to become one of Ireland's foremost literary and artistic figures. He died in 1981. "Now when I see someone like that, I realize the person may have a perfect understan- ding of what I am saying, but just can't answer back," O'Cono: said. The film star spoke about his role in a telephone interview from Los Angeles in late January during a promotional tour of the movie, which stars Daniel Day-Lewis as Brown in his adult years and features Brenda Fricker as Brown's mother, who believed in her son's potential. Day-Lewis won best actor awards from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics for his portrayal of Brown. Miss Fricker won best supporting actress from the Los Angeles critics for her role. O'Conor did "quite a lot of research" for the movie, which required him to convey a physical tautness characteristic of cerebral palsy. He also had to learn how to write with a piece of chalk between his toes. One man he studied, who "had no arms," O'Conor said, was in- strumental in teaching him how to write and pull himself around with his foot. The young actor said that playing Brown was a role for him but that "when you know that this really happened, you feel sort of angry that people didn't even think" he could communicate. O'Conor, who attends Jesuit- run Gonzaga College, a prep school in Dublin, said the movie showed the sustaining power of religion for Mrs. Brown. "She wanted all her children to go to church," even Christy, said O'Conor. He recalled a scene in which Mrs. Brown told her son that even though others might not understand what he said, God did. "She had faith," said O'Conor. "I think that was one of the things that helped her come to terms with Christy." Miss Fricker, 44, told Catholic News Service that the movie spoke of the "power of true love" even amidst poverty. This is what "touched people's hearts," she said. The movie conveys "op- timism," said Miss Fricker, and shows you can have "very little and still be happy." It also sug- gests that "the materialism of the Western world does not necessarily bring happiness," she said. Seeing it "moved me," she said. "You came out feeling good." The actress, who stars in the BBC-TV series "Casualty," has met some of Brown's brothers and sisters, whom she des- cribed as "tough Dublin character." But they still talk about Christy with tremendous affection and love," she said. She said her role was de- manding and noted, for exam- fie, that for one scene she had to carry O'Conor over her shoulder up a flight of stairs. He weighs a lot more than he looks," she added. Judith Trojan, film reviewer for the U.S. Catholic Con- ference Office for Film and Broadcasting, said O'Conor played his role "brilliantly" and had high praise for the movie. "One will have to look far and wide to find a more in" sightful portrait of a handicap" ped individual's life," she said. i Due to some violence, rough language and sexual innuendo, the USCC classification is A-Ill -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. USCC capsule reviews of recent films Heart Condition New Line A bigoted slob of a Los Angeles vice cop (Bob Hoskins) is hounded by the ghost of his heart-transplant donor (Denzel Washington), a slick, black attorney who took up with the cop's ex- girlfriend (Chloe Webb), a hooker in distress. The lawyer's ghost is out to pro- tect his heart and to solve the mystery of his murder. Writer-director James D. Par- riott skirts over the crime- thriller aspects of the story to focus on the comic an- tagonisms between the off- beat buddy team and, along the way, make some valid points about healthy hearts and racism. Some sexually suggestive scenes involving prostitutes, climactic violence and rough language including racial slurs. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Loose Cannons Tri-Star Witless action comedy about two screwball cops (Gene Hackman and Dan Aykroyd) whose investiga- tion of a bizarre murder case leads to a sleazy porno king (Dom DeLuise) linked to foreign agents seeking a lost reel of pornography produc- ed by the Nazis. Directed by Bob Clark, it's a sophomoric exercise in minimalist com- edy, stringing together a series of dumb gags, weak spoofs of pop culture, sex jokes, special-effects mayhem and some very of- fensive language. Much de- meaning sexual humor, violence and rough language. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is O -- morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R -- restricted. Mack the Knife 21st Century Cheesy, tedious adapta- tion of the 1929 Brecht-Weill musical, "The Threepenny Opera" about the downfall of the despicable criminal and womanizer, MacHeath (Raul Julia), at large in Lon- don's underworld of beg- gars, whores, murderers and thieves at the time of Queen Victoria's coronation. Writer-director Menahem Golan misses the point of the original social commentary by stuffing this forgettable film with unimaginatively staged musical numbers, a gray-on-gray color scheme and overacting. Some sex- ually vulgar innuendoes, crude language and violence. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 Stanley & Iris MGM Illiterate worker (Robert De Niro) asks his factory associate (Jane Fonda) to teach him to read and they fall in 10ve, find fulfillment and go on to presumably live happily ever after. Director Martin Ritt has made a socially conscious movie rooted in a working-class en- vironment. However, despite credible perfor- mances by its stars, the film falters thanks to its too- obvious intention to be up- lifting which will tempt many to dismiss it as old- fashioned melodrama. Scant but meaningful treatment of an illegitimate birth and a few instances of incidental profanity. The U.S. Catholic Conference classification is A-II -- adults and adolescents.