Diarmaid Blehein gives us the juicy gossip on Poison Pen, the first feature film script by Artemis Fowl author Eoin Colfer. The film premiered at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.
PC Molloy (Lochlann O’Mearain) is a Booker Prize-winning author who hasn’t published a book in fifteen years. He spends his days teaching classic poetry to uninterested college students and avoiding completion of his second novel. However, his circumstances change suddenly when his publisher is bought by the owners of a celebrity gossip magazine, Poison Pen, a genre of writing he openly despises. Much to his indignation, the magazine’s boss, the beautiful and ruthless April Devereaux (Aoibhinn McGinnity), hires him to interview celebrities for a column she hopes will add a touch of class to the scandalous rag. Facing legal action if he refuses, Molloy grudgingly takes on the job and sets about trying to get fired. But he soon finds himself becoming very involved on both sides of the game.
Eoin Colfer, famed author of the Artemis Fowl book series, turns his hand to screenwriting and creates a quirky comedy that sucks us in to the grizzly world of magazine journalism, while at the same time entertains us immensely. It is very refreshing to see a film set in London which has an Irishman as the central character who doesn’t fall victim to any kind of stereotype. He is a man who just happens to be Irish.
O’ Mearain gives a delightful performance as the bookish, snobbish, tweed- wearing Molloy, whose cynicism of his new workplace and its members proves for some genuinely amusing moments. McGinnity is equally convincing as the ambitious, gossip-hungry boss, who gradually melts once Molloy starts to deliver the dirt. The film also features a strong supporting cast. Ryan O’ Shaughnessy is hilarious as one of Molloy’s loud-mouthed students whose ambition to be a famous rapper makes him stop at nothing to attract media attention including posing as his teacher’s gay partner. Lauryn Canny of Amber fame also holds her own as Molloy’s daughter, Sally, who aspires to be a model just like her deceased mother, much to her father’s dismay.
What’s most impressive about the film is its ability to be funny without resorting to awful crassness, which sadly seems to be what many contemporary comedies are doing in order to generate a laugh. The subject matter is strikingly relevant with the power and freedom of the British press being currently under scrutiny in light of the Leveson Inquiry. Indeed, despite the many laughs the film succeeds in conjuring, there is a deeper message trying to get through, particularly through the character of Shona, a famous singer with whom Molloy finds himself confiding in during an interview.
With Poison Pen, directors Jennifer Shortall, Lorna Fitzsimons and Steven Benedict have delivered a clever, quirky, thought-provoking film which succeeds in revealing the human side to the people we read about on a daily basis as well as that of those who set out to exploit them.