The Irishman Is Missing A Woman

The lead actress only says ‘why?’

indi.ca

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Anna Paquin’s Peggy is the center of the film. She only says 7 words

Satriale’s Pork Store was an appropriate setting for The Sopranos. The mafia is a sausage fest. Truly an all-male world with female accessories. And yet the great mafia films, including The Sopranos, had a strong female presence. Martin Scorcese, in particular, was excellent at this. In Goodfellas, Lorraine Bracco was a second narrator. In Casino, Sharon Stone was the third lead. That’s what the Irishman is missing. An Irishwoman.

There is a woman at the emotional center of the film — the daughter Peggy Shereen — but she remains mute. Played as an adult by Anna Paquin, she only speaks seven words in the entire film. Here they are, in their entirety:

“Why?” Peggy asks Frank to which he responds “Wha?”

“Why?” she asks again

“Why what?” Frank says.

“Why haven’t you called Jo?,” she asks.

After that point, she stops speaking to her father (and us) ever again. Not that she spoke much anyways. Near the end of the film, when he is unable to speak to Peggy he speaks to his second daughter. She says:

Daddy, you had no idea what it was like for us.

And we don’t. Besides wives asking for cigarettes, this scene is the only time a woman really speaks in the film, and it’s over all too soon. Some critics have said that this is subtlety, that the female muteness improves the film.

Scorsese’s greatest expression of trust in Peggy is to give the look of disgust in her eyes more moral weight than all the men’s words and actions.(Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post)

Both actors playing Peggy convey this much with withering, meaningful glances rather than histrionic speechifying, which has been a touch subtle for some of the internet’s simpler cultural critics.

While detractors have levied the charge of sexism against the script for seemingly stripping one of its few female characters of her ability to speak, cooler heads have posited that this must surely be the point. (Charles Bramesco, The Guardian)

Certainly, it is the point. It’s just not good.

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indi.ca

Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at www.indi.ca, or just email me at indi@indi.ca.