Every so often, a talented filmmaker, usually one with deep romantic inclinations, comes down with a bad case of poetic whimsy. When that happens, you may watch his movie with a kind of creeping double vision — aware, on the one hand, of the lyrical masterpiece he thinks he’s creating, yet stultified by the pretty, meandering mess that’s actually on-screen. In The Miracle, written and directed by Neil Jordan (Mona Lisa), Jimmy (Niall Byrne), an Irish teenager living with his sad, beer-bellied musician father (Donal McCann) in the seacoast village of Bray, hangs out with his teenage soul mate Rose (Lorraine Pilkington) but finds himself drawn to an alluring stranger, a voluptuous blond with a faraway look in her eye. This Woman of Mystery (Beverly D’Angelo) has the reassuring warmth and serenity of a fairy godmother. Jimmy follows her and talks to her, and she begins to play along — at least platonically — with his tentative, flirtatious advances. Yet platonic they must remain.
Why has this angelic femme fatale come to town? The answer, it turns out, is both tragic and absurd, a kind of rapt, melancholy joke. Beverly D’Angelo, who has the most exquisite overbite in movie history, makes a ripe erotic goddess, and The Miracle wants to be nothing less than a vision of earthly longing. Jimmy’s adolescent ardor is a metaphor for all our impossible romantic dreams (and for the biology in which they’re rooted). Jordan, though, hasn’t worked any of this into a convincing — or compelling — narrative. The Miracle is like an Irish version of an Alan Rudolph movie — the Rudolph who, in films like Trouble in Mind, pads his dialogue with precious bons mots and turns unrequited desire into free-floating, mush-brained masochism. Jimmy keeps taking long, ruminative walks with his pal Rose, who describes the two of them as ”too friendly to be lovers, too close to be friends.” That sums up a great many teen relationships, yet the way these two converse, drenching every word in gobs of cool irony, we never get inside their skins. The Miracle has so much poetic-nattering-by-the-Irish-seaside that the movie keeps drifting into the stratosphere. Jordan should come back down to earth. He does much better there. C-