Irish film The Stag tries to give the well-worn stag do genre (or bachelor weekend genre in the USA) a twist, but in most respects follows tried and tested methods. Whatever its faults, I found myself laughing out loud quite a lot.
The idea is that Fionnan (Hugh O’Connor) is a ‘metrosexual man’, too metrosexual in fact. I thought that David Beckham was the prototype of metrosexuality – well groomed, vain in fact, but not exactly a wet blanket. This metrosexual however seems to be the sort of chap who not only flits from shop to shop just like a dedicated follower of fashion, but for whom a stroll in the country would bring out in hives. Anyway, he’s far too in touch with his feminine side to do anything as crass as a stag weekend.
Fionnan’s fiancée Ruth (Amy Huberman) is even more in touch with her feminine side and wants to get rid of her fella before he drives her round the bend with all his wedding obsessing. She persuades the best man Davin (Andrew Scott) to organise a stag do. He corrals Simon (Brian Gleeson) and “the two Kevins” (Michael Legge and Andrew Bennett) into joining them on a weekend trekking in the lovely Wicklow Mountains. They want to avoid inviting Ruth’s brother who is a proper nutter known as The Machine (Peter McDonald). Machine-like, he tracks them down and joins in.
The Stag has a few issues. Firstly, the blokes are gratingly wimpy, and there also seems to be a certain amount of over acting going on. More crucially, the stories of the stags themselves aren’t developed well enough. Generally speaking characters not only have to undergo some trial in order to come to a deeper level of understanding, but they should have some personal problem which we must learn about them so we can join them on this journey. Apart from Fionnan and perhaps Davin, we learn his friends back stories rather late in the day. The stories themselves don’t feel particularly fresh either.
Also, annoyingly, The Machine is always referred to thus, which is a hell of a mouthful. We all have the odd thuggish friend who goes about with a jokey moniker, but these normally have two syllables. How about abbreviating The Machine?
Despite this, overall The Stag has plenty of laughs. The jokes are wry. Early on in proceedings The Machine asks where they are off to, “Bangkok? Vegas? Amsterdam? No, we’re going to Cardiff!” There’s some good physical comedy too. The scene where The Machine (again) gets tangled up in an electric fence had me barking. The scenery they go hiking through is gorgeous – and one wonders about the aesthetic sensitivities of these dandyish men if they are blind to that (perhaps I am missing the point with these modern day Beau Brummels). The Irish Tourist Board should at least enjoy the views.
Those who are not familiar with Irish folk music or the poetry of Patrick Kavanagh might also enjoy a rendition of On Raglan Road which is a truly beautiful piece of work, whoever sings it. As the stag moves into the wedding itself, you may find yourself thinking that this film has its heart in the right place, it’s just that it’s head should have followed a path that was not quite so well trodden.
The Stag is out on Blu-ray and DVD from July 21st, 2014