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'Jimmy’s Hall': EW review

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Jimmy’s Hall

Current Status:
In Season
109 minutes
Limited Release Date:
Barry Ward, Francis Magee, Aileen Henry
Ken Loach

We gave it a B-

Even if you aren’t a fan of Ken Loach’s particular brand of British working-class beleaguerment, his latest import may still get its hooks into you. It’s the most user-friendly—which is to say, the most conventional—film he’s made in his 50-year career. The director’s usual concerns about social justice and the travails of the underdog are all accounted for in this picturesque drama about a fiery Irish socialist who clashes with the church, but they’re wrapped in the sort of sentimental blarney you’d find in John Ford’s The Quiet Man. Barry Ward stars as Jimmy Gralton, a progressive who ran afoul of the local clergy back in the early ’20s and fled the peat bogs of County Leitrim for New York City during the Depression. A decade later, he returns home and reopens the boarded-up community hall that got him into hot water in the first place, what with its riotous music, free-spirited dancing, and lively discussions of Yeats. While the young out-of-work villagers hungry for a taste of Jazz Age liberation hail Jimmy as a conquering hero and turn him into a champion of the oppressed, the parish priest (Jim Norton) delivers ultimatums from the pulpit, forcing his flock to choose between God and Jimmy’s rhythms “from the darkest Africa.” As with most of his films, Loach doesn’t try to hide the sincerity of his truth-to-power politics. But here’s a case where he could have tried a bit harder to. B–