The Brothers McMullen

Hot director Ed Burns is 27, a former production assistant on Entertainment Tonight and the winner of the grand-jury prize at Sundance for his captivating debut feature, a brash romantic comedy about three sexually screwed-up Irish brothers from Long Island, N.Y. Burns shot this low-budget talkfest on weekends in his parents' house with a cast of unknowns including himself and his girlfriend, Maxine Bahns (cleverly cast as his girlfriend). Now he's being hailed as the Irish-Catholic Woody Allen.

Success stories are a bigger kick when the success is deserved. Burns is a striking new talent. He knows this working-class background, and his dialogue catches the teasing cadences the brothers use to dodge emotional hardballs. Burns plays Barry, the lady-killer McMullen who's afraid of commitment to Audry (Bahns). Younger brother Patrick (Mike McGlone) thinks he might go to hell if he marries the Jewish Susan (Shari Albert). Older brother Jack (Jack Mulcahy) considers cheating on wife Molly (a superb Connie Britton).

That's the setup for Burns to tweak flesh and spirit as the brothers drop their macho bravado in the face of women who demand a deeper response. The women's characters are as well drawn as the men's in a splendidly acted film that captures the confusion of love in ways that are ardent, affecting and wonderfully funny.

From The Archives Issue 202: December 8, 1975