The Con movie gives fresh insight into life after rehab. This is a new and unique take on the well-trod ground of alcoholism and attempted recovery.
The Con movie is a 2017 Irish film written, produced, and directed by Bertie Brosnan who also stars as the titular Con. Con Keogh is a young Irish film star and filmmaker. We meet him as he literally exits the gates of a rehabilitation facility where he has been treated for his alcohol problems.
We don’t see the rehab or what went on before it that caused it to be required, but we do hear negative stories of Con’s behavior from others. What we do see is the world before Con as he exits rehab and we see it more or less from his perspective and through his eyes.
As Con exits rehab he is tentative, subdued and obviously not quite himself. This is a treacherous new world he must navigate. He must now act differently and be different from the Con that preceded him. This is very difficult and it has him apprehensive and off-balance.
The unique perspective of Con is that the viewer sees, along with Con, that although he went to rehab for his problems, those around him did not. Thus, when he returns to the real world, so to speak, he is confronted with the same behaviors of others that may have aggravated some of his drinking problem to begin with.
These behaviors of others may be part of the root causes of his disappointment and disillusionment with the world. He may drink, in part, to escape these things and they are still there in full-force when he gets out of rehab. It is as if the whole world needs to go to rehab and not just the afflicted individual.
As a few days go by and Con continues to reunite with the people in his life, we can sense some of the things that may have driven Con to excess to begin with. No one will listen to him. Everyone has their own agenda. For being a big star, Con is really just a cog in many peoples plans, desires and dreams.
Con’s greatest wish may be for someone to just listen to what he has to say about how he is feeling, but most people are too busy using him to one degree or another to be bothered. What is important is their plans, their success. Con is left almost as roadkill along this busy highway of ambition.
The vehicle to tell this story is a documentary being shot about Con as he emerges from rehab. It follows his moves as he prepares to potentially reunite with his estranged father. The fist-pumping director of the documentary is concerned primarily with his documentary and not the welfare of the his subject, Con. Most of his fist-pumping is behind Con’s back. Yet, Con has the insight and empathy to be there for the director when the director needs it.
The same kind of problem exists with Con’s slick-talking agent, George Summers, who superficially railroads Con down a one-way track. He cannot hear Con who exists only to the agent in a my-way-or-the-highway sort of way. The agent is a great character, played by Tadhg Hickey, and he would dump Con in an instant if things went south or a better prospect came his way.
The location shooting in Ireland gives a clue to Con’s dilemma. Shot from on high, the tranquil green countryside looks great from afar. On the sea coast, the gray waters shadow Con with the threat of turmoil. The sea is calm for now, but a storm may be on the horizon. Con stands on the beach, not really much more than a grain of sand himself, compared with the vastness of the sea. Can Con remain on firm ground in the netherworld he now must navigate fresh from rehab?
The focus on the behavior other people and what they have to say about Con makes this film unique. Con is not alone in his fault. The standard fare of alcoholic descent and destruction, rehab, Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, and all the rest which has been covered in the past is to be expected. The works that come to mind immediately are films like Days of Wine and Roses. Con was nothing like those.
The closest thing to Con, perversely, is Leaving Las Vegas, but it would be the polar opposite, negative image, of the same. In Con, the young actor is actually trying to stop drinking and faces nothing but criticism, back-stabbing and users. Con would greatly have benefited from a young woman, or anyone for that matter, in his life, who could potentially help him through the rough spots and provide a sympathetic ear. We do not see anyone actively enabling his drinking which is a positive for Con. There are some potential friends and possible romance, but nothing seems to come of it. Con has no one to really help him or to lean on. He is both famous and alone.
In the end, the Con movie is a cautionary tale. Rehab is one thing, recovery and day to day living is another. As the doctor states in the film, recovery must be worked on every single day. This probably includes every single minute and hour of every single day. Is Con destined for failure?
There are some scenes in the film which are almost comical on the face of it, but are tragic in their implications. Furthermore, these scenes hit very close to home for the many celebrities who have struggled with addiction. Tabloid news may plaster the print and electronic media with mug shots of a disheveled actor or athlete for their profit and the ostensible entertainment and mockery of viewers, but at the core a person is suffering. A few scenes of Con could have been pulled directly from the downfall of a recent athlete which was followed breathlessly and with much negative comment from on top of the various soapboxes in the United States. A few people mentioned concern for the guy inside, but most just mocked the failure and the flame-out.
When Con, the man, exits rehab he is so tentative and unsure of how to act and what awaits him that he is not really all that likable. People are always told to be themselves. Con is definitely not himself at this point. As a few days go by, Con starts to get his feet back under him and the confident swagger begins to return. You see the charisma that has drawn people to Con, the movie star.
Unfortunately, this is also Con, the problem. Whether a creep or a flawed hero, this Con is genuine and more appealing than the mousy shade of himself that emerged from rehab, dubiously reformed and definitely beaten-down. One of these Cons is a humiliated flop, the other has box office pizzazz. It is easy to see which direction Con will need to go in order to remain a star, sobriety be damned.
The transformation of Con from dolt to darling is amazing. Recently, the thought has occurred, “What is acting?” It is very difficult to encapsulate. In the Con movie there is an example. The dramatic transformation of Con, the humbled human, just released from rehab, basically scared of his own shadow, to Con, the slick, slippery, and swaggering star is controlled in a remarkable way. There are a number of compelling reasons to like this unique and interesting film. Bertie Brosnan’s impressive, and knowing, performance as Con is one of those compelling reasons.