review by myles gibbons
Directed by Enda Loughman and Mike Ahern, this Munster-based satire takes aim at supernatural movies such as The Exorcist and An American Werewolf in London with likable characters, hilarious dialogue and charm in spades, which keeps the film moving through some of its slower sections. Extra Ordinary follows driving instructor Rose Dooley, played by Maeve Higgins, as we discover more about her and her sordid past with the supernatural. The setting of a small Irish town in the nineties creates an intimate setting which offsets the more absurd elements of the plot, creating hilarious and realistic character reactions to increasingly ridiculous events. Whilst the occasional joke falls flat, the majority of them are tear-inducingly funny, such as the main villain being introduced on a Nationwide segment.
Maeve Higgins is suitably charismatic and awkward as Rose, with her stuttering dialogue in her native Cobh accent creating some of the most memorable moments in the film. Rose is given a strong arc and Higgins does well to portray every emotion on her road to change. Will Forte chews the scenery as the occult baddie and one hit wonder, Christian Winter; His slightly pathetic but always scheming villain bouncing off his entitled wife, played excellently by Claudia O’Doherty as an unbearably annoying woman-child. Barry Ward’s Martin Martin is portrayed as a milksop, but gains depth and grows as the film goes on. Ward is at his best when playing opposite Higgins in their many scenes together, and it’s during these character interactions where this film really shines. The main roles are bolstered by an excellent supporting cast, with Terri Chandler and Risteard Cooper as the standouts.
While overall, the film is funny and light, there is one element of the film I found deeply problematic, that of the domestic abuse experienced by Ward’s character Martin. His dead wife haunts him and his daughter throughout the course of the film; breaking dishes, not allowing Martin to eat what he wants, as well as hitting him with the door of a cupboard. All these moments are played for laughs at Martin’s expense due to his cowardly nature; A glaring flaw in an otherwise well thought-out film. One hopes that later in the film Martin would stand up for himself and finally leave the past behind, but unfortunately this never comes to pass. In one of the final scenes, Martin’s late wife explains that she really does care for her former husband, and then passes on into the afterlife with no satisfying conclusion to what I had perceived as a major theme throughout the film.
Besides some pacing issues towards the end of the second act and some underdeveloped themes, Extra Ordinary is a quotably funny, light-hearted and well put together comedy. The satire and references to supernatural cinema are not soniche that they’ll leave the uninitiated scratching their heads, but by no means lack depth either. Carried by charming, strong performances, and an excellent script with a strong and satisfying conclusion, Extra Ordinary is a film that will keep you laughing long after you’ve left the cinema.
Extra Ordinary will screen in Irish cinemas in September.