Netflix ‘Irish Wish’ Is Like AI-Generated Harbinger of Doom

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Photo: Patrick Redmond/Netflix

For years, I have cheerfully covered the Netflix Christmas Cinematic Universe–Industrial Complex, consuming its endless exports with the assumption that, in the end, it was all harmless fun, just a series of categorically but admirably bad movies about fake monarchies and horny yet prude journalists. Now that I have seen Netflix’s latest film, Irish Wish, I realize I have been but a hapless pawn in a larger sociopolitical plot to maintain the status quo, quell dissent, replace much of the workforce with AI, install a permanent Christian theocratic dictator, and make Ireland look weird for some reason.

Irish Wish is not technically a Netflix Christmas movie, but it shares all of the genre’s hallmarks: It’s vaguely holiday-themed (I’m inferring the St. Patrick’s Day connection based on the film’s release date and the fact that it has no other reason to take place in Ireland), everyone in it dresses like they have only ever shopped on on Cyber Monday, there is no sex or sexual chemistry to speak of despite the entire plot hinging on the possibility thereof, and every scene is lit and color coded like a poorly managed children’s hospital.

The primary difference here, however, is that Irish Wish is a thinly veiled Trojan horse for the conservative agenda, a crypto-fascist work of art cluttered with right-wing dog whistles and dialogue that could have only been written by a malevolently programmed artificial intelligence. I attempted to identify and examine its most troubling moments, which ended up being the entire movie from start to finish, which I watched twice while feeling the walls of reality melt around me.

1. The film begins with both text and voice-over defining the word wish, for those unfamiliar: “Wish (verb): To want something that cannot or will not happen.” The voice-over continues ominously, Irishly — “But what if it does …?” This is the first of thousands of indicators that a human being did not write this screenplay. Suddenly, the camera cuts from a neon-green field in what the press notes inform me is the Republic of Ireland to Times Square, which inexplicably transforms into the Meatpacking District.

2. It’s here we meet Lindsay Lohan’s Maddie, a polite, nervous book editor who sometimes puts on glasses to indicate she doesn’t know she’s beautiful and who exclusively wears one dress, apparently available in a variety of fabrics and prints, with a suspiciously high neckline and below-the-knee hemline that hints at the lurking specter of Traditional Family Values. (It should be said that Lohan sells this movie as well as anyone can, Dakota Johnson style, and I pray she wrenches herself free of both her binding Netflix contract and its attendant Handmaid’s Tale–ass stylist.) Maddie is late for a flashy, paparazzi-attended book premiere (??) that will feature a freakishly small step-and-repeat that directly faces the street, a cocktail hour during which everyone sits down in booths, and a somber, intimate reading.

3. The book in question is Two Irish Hearts, by caddish author Paul Kennedy, Maddie’s longtime client and crush. His “best-selling in the U.K.” books, it’s soon revealed, are mostly ghostwritten by Maddie, leaving her no time to write her own novels or to arrive at Meatpacking Square at the appropriate hour. ChatGPT has been instructed to inform us that, despite having really good hair, Maddie does not “have it together,” so it regurgitates a visual cue from the hundreds of rom-com scripts it has trawled for parts: Maddie’s scarf gets caught in her cab door, and she runs after it half-heartedly, then gives up.

4. On the red carpet at an event that she has planned and is late for, Maddie calmly answers a phone call from her mom, Jane Seymour, who very clearly shot all of her scenes in a single day, only ever appears via FaceTime, and seems to have no idea which movie she is in. Good for her. Seymour is audibly struggling to order $74 toilet paper on a website called School Supplies of America. The large bottle of keyboard cleaner that sits next to her, huffably, might explain this entire movie. Seymour lectures Maddie about being late to her event despite directly contributing to that problem and asks Maddie if she has told Paul she is in love with him. “I hope you haven’t told anyone about my feelings for him,” Maddie says, noting — as she goes on speakerphone and places the phone on the public restroom’s sink — that even her best friends do not know about her feelings. Her best friends are named Heather and Emma, again pointing to an AI maniacally commandeered by someone who grew up in the ’80s.

5. Maddie greets “Heather and Emma” in one of the most chilling approximations of human behavior I’ve ever witnessed in my life. “Hey, girls,” she says. They all hug systematically. “Where’s the scarf I gave you to wear?” asks Emma. “Freak accident. I totally get it if you never want to loan me anything again,” says Maddie. “Don’t worry about it, Mads,” says Emma. “That scarf was a sample from work.” Maddie turns robotically to Heather, who is played by Ayesha Curry. “Heather,” she says, “great job on the cover art.” This is the first time Maddie has seen the cover for the book she has just edited. “You like it?” asks Heather. “It’s stunning,” says Maddie. “What do you think, Emma?”

6. The plot lurches forward, herky-jerky, like the reanimated corpse it is: Emma tells Maddie she thinks Paul is hot; Paul asks Maddie to “help” with his next book instead of confessing his love, as she hoped he would; Emma’s fake eyelash is coming off in the hallway. “I’m a stylist at Bergdorf’s, and I get all the latest in luxury cosmetics,” Emma offers by “way” of “explanation.” Paul puts it back on for her even though he is ostensibly straight, and they gaze longingly at each other. The girls cab home through a poorly green-screened Times Square as Maddie jealously negs Emma.

7. Suddenly, destabilizingly, we are in Ireland and it’s Emma and Paul’s wedding weekend and everyone is at the Knock Airport. Dressed in a blazer and rolled-up Capris like Sheryl Sandberg ca. 2010, Maddie mistakes her bag for one belonging to a hot British guy named James, and they fight over it before both ending up on the same airport shuttle, which somehow takes Maddie all the way to Paul’s family’s Irish castle. On the way, he shits on Paul Kennedy, not knowing her relationship to him. “I took the bus, which was fine, except for the cheeky English guy I had to ride with,” she complains to Heather. She then nearly knocks over a priceless family vase lest we forget she is a single hapless woman and therefore a total shitshow.

8. We meet the one prophesied queer-coded character, Paul’s brother, Kory, as he carries a pile of logs in what can only be described as the gayest way possible. As in all Netflix properties, his purpose here, outside of carrying a bunch of logs around despite living in a castle with a full staff, is to make bitchy jokes. Heather will inexplicably obsess over Kory for the rest of the movie despite having almost no interactions with him.

9. Major and rapid exposition dump at a local pub called Scruffy Murphy’s, where the eponymous bartender explains James’s job to him (“gallivanting around the world photographing lizards and birds”) and laments the fact that this job is getting in the way of his personal life (“How are you going to find a nice woman to settle down with you?”). “Good to see you,” they both conclude. The scene abruptly ends.

10. Another major exposition dump, this time for Maddie. “Is everything okay with you? You seem a little off,” says Heather, the least perceptive friend on earth. She suggests they all have a “girls’ night” (in rural Ireland). “We go out, get a couple drinks, meet some guys — because you haven’t dated in almost a year, since you started writing that book with Paul … Just say ‘yes’!” Maddie says “yes,” and Heather says, “Thank you.” They never do the girls’ night.

11. Fifteen minutes later, they all go on a picnic, during which they stumble upon a series of millennial-pink canoes and a matching dock near a hallucinatory field that looks like the set of What Dreams May Come. Maddie is not allowed to go on a boat because she is single, so she wanders off to FaceTime Jane Seymour, who lectures her again, this time for being too single. Maddie agrees, smiles, hangs up, and meets some kind of winking Irish phantom woman in full stage makeup who grants her a single wish, which is, of course, “I wish I were marrying Paul Kennedy.”

12. Maddie awakens suddenly in her new life. Paul is showering in her bathroom. She screams and covers her eyes despite having wanted nothing else but to fuck Paul for years. She spends the rest of the movie assiduously avoiding all sexual contact, including kissing, with her fiancé, perhaps in part because Lohan’s husband co-produced this film.

13. Maddie pulls a wedding dress, raw, out of her suitcase.

14. There is a framed photo of Maddie and Paul smiling cheerfully in Times Square, which, it’s now very clear to me, the algorithm understands as the entirety of New York City. This photo is zoomed in on several times over the course of the film.

15. Breakfast. Everyone is in pearls and heels. The dialogue takes on an exponentially uncanny tone, from which it never recovers. “Why can I not find a photographer for this wedding?” asks Paul’s mom about the wedding that’s happening in two days. “Because you’re horrible, Mom,” says Gay Kory cheerfully.

16. Much of Paul’s Irish family is British, and nobody explains this.

17. “You have to try these local woodland strawberries. They’re delicious,” says Heather out of the fucking blue.

18. “Oh, I meant to tell you: The bakery called. The wedding cake we ordered is too tall for the delivery truck,” says Paul’s mom. “Could you … get a smaller cake?” asks Maddie hesitantly. “Well done, dear,” says Paul’s mom. “I like your thinking,” says Paul’s dad. “Finally, someone with some sense!” says Kory. None of this is ever addressed again. It’s possible that this movie was made solely to get some kind of secret political message across international boundaries in deep code.

19. Same afternoon. Everyone is wearing new outfits. Heather’s unexplained twin fixations on fruit and Kory continue apace. “Emma and I are going down to the family orchard later to pick some apples. Kory, do you want to come with us?” (Kory can’t pick apples; he’s busy playing some kind of sport, gayly.) In the next scene, as the women hoist their heavy baskets of apples up the drive, Heather says, “How about we make an apple pie for Kory?” Is this some kind of QAnon thing? Regardless, fruit is never addressed again.

20. Paul’s mom asks that Maddie wear a vintage Lanvin wedding gown instead of the random crumpled one she yanked out of her suitcase earlier. This is presented as problematic. “My mom will handle her,” says Maddie of Jane Seymour, who is flying in from Des Moines at the last minute.

21. At the local rare-books shop, James wins a free copy of Paul’s rare best-selling novel.

22. Maddie, trying on wedding dresses next door, falls into James’s convertible. Paul’s mom appears and congratulates her for having found a photographer. They all go back to the castle, and Maddie changes back into the same dress and pearls from breakfast. She and James share a romantic moment when she repeats his profound words back to him — “Everyone has a camera in their pocket now” — from their earlier shuttle-bus interaction, which he doesn’t remember in this universe because it never happened. Any time traveler will recognize this as an unethical seduction tactic.

23. Maddie winks at herself in the mirror. “You’re marrying Paul Kennedy!” she squeals. She falls asleep, then beats the shit out of Paul when he gets in bed to snuggle with her. The glaring subtext is that Maddie is a staunch virgin (because she is not married).

24. Maddie and James go location-scouting alone because Paul is grievously injured from the night before. They stand at the staggeringly beautiful edge of the Cliffs of Moher. “I think I just stepped into a James Joyce novel,” says Maddie. “That’s not a reference I was expecting,” says James. “Joyce is my favorite author,” says Maddie. “Is he?” says James. “Unfortunately, I don’t think a rugged cliff is Paul’s style,” says Maddie. “But I think it’s beautiful here.” “Me too,” says James, astonished. This conversation forms the central foundation of their fledgling love.

25. Back at the castle, Kory plays gay sport with an unexplained male friend named Finn who has one hoop earring. “Wow,” says Heather. “This looks like fun.” Finn laughs. “So Heather, I was talking to Kory about the big wedding-aisle walk,” he says. “Should we all practice so we can make a splaaaashy entrance?” He wiggles his hips suggestively. “I’ve got my eye on you, Finn. Don’t steal my spotlight,” says Paul randomly. “I’ve got moves — I ain’t gonna lie,” says Finn. I have lost all bearings on anyone’s sexuality at this point.

26. Emma and Paul, who have recently bonded over their shared belief that men can get Botox after their initial meet-cute over eyelash extensions, bond further over Emma’s “amazing concealer,” further complicating the already fraught and inconsistent sexual politics at play in this film.

27. Jane Seymour sleeps through her alarm owing to Irish magic and misses her flight. She tries to rebook but then falls and goes to the hospital because the rules of her contract dictate that she never has to go to the actual set of this movie.

28. The scene that follows takes place, as so much bad art does, at the direct intersection of conservative propaganda and pornography. On the drive home from the Cliffs of Moher, a storm downs a tree in the middle of the only road out of town. Maddie and James can’t drive back to the castle. Luckily, James knows a “lovely little pub” nearby where another bartender (not Scruffy Murphy; in this universe, he is, I guess, dead) has a vested interest in his nonexistent love life. They learn that another patron named Seamus is not fixing the tree until the morning because he is drunk. They must stay overnight.

29. “Is it true that you don’t have a home?” Maddie asks James over pints of Guinness, by way of making conversation. If I were allowed to choose only one line out of this film to prove that it was written by AI, it would be this one.

30. The two make eyes at each other over a sensual game of darts, the preferred game of the Irish working class. They then participate in a choreographed Irish jig in a brief, tragic Titanic rip-off; even the soundtrack briefly goes a little Titanic. If it’s possible to be racist about white Irish people, this movie is.

31. Maddie gets splattered in mud on the drive back to the castle, where everyone is mad that she is late to the rehearsal. “Those trees can be a real challenge,” says Heather. “And we don’t even know if they had a chain saw. Right, Emma?” If the character of Emma is a big-pharma plant, shilling cosmetic interventions, then Heather was paid for by big ag.

32. Muddy Maddie races into the rehearsal, at which Paul and Emma are making googly eyes at each other. “We were coming back from the Cliffs of Moher,” Maddie explains. “What were you doing in that tourist trap?” asks Paul of the stunning natural locale that was entirely empty of other people. Maddie’s face falls. For those keeping track, Paul and Emma are perfect for each other because they love body mods; Maddie and James are perfect for each other because they love objectively beautiful cliffs.

33. Before Maddie and Paul can kiss (for the first time) at the end of the rehearsal, the stained-glass window turns into the Irish witch and winks at Maddie, causing her to scream and pass out. Turns out the witch in question is named Saint Brigid. Everyone knows her, and she is crazy.

34. At the rehearsal dinner, Kory begins a game of How Well Do You Know Your Fiancé? An early “trivia question” for the couple is “Where did Paul propose?” It’s revealed that Maddie actually proposed, which suggests that Kory, with his sassy leading question, is somehow complicit in the multidimensional chicanery and/or this script was not even given a cursory review by a human being. They all stand up and dance like Sims to “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.

35. “We spent a day together. I admit it was a beautiful day, filled with dramatic vistas and romantic rain,” says Maddie to James. “But tomorrow I’m marrying Paul Kennedy.” They get into an argument. “Tomorrow will be the last you see of me. Because after that, I’m off to Bolivia to photograph an endangered TREE lizard,” says James. “When do you LEAVE?” asks Maddie. “SUNday,” spits James. “Great. Right on time to keep running away from your own LIFE,” says Maddie. HE storms off.

36. Maddie leaves her rehearsal dinner to work on her own novel, which so far reads, “UNTITLED NOVEL, BY MADELINE KELLY. CHAPTER ONE.”

37. Paul emails her while he is downstairs at the rehearsal dinner. The email reads, “Here you go babe! WEDDING VOWS. By Paul Kennedy.”

38. The next morning, Maddie spies James taking photos of a random fountain. “It’s one thing to edit a book,” he says, “but you really shouldn’t go on editing your own life.” She is bowled over.

39. A bereft Maddie stands Melancholia style in front of a window in her cursed vintage Lanvin. Emma, nightmare friend, runs in and asks the bride if her own eyebrows are even because “the makeup artist has serious ’tude.” Maddie reassures her and then apologizes to Emma because she knows Emma and Paul are “meant to be,” and Emma is like, “Yeah, thanks.”

40. One-hoop Finn is revealed to be Paul’s only other groomsman besides Kory. Are they also related? I have no idea what’s going on anymore.

41. Maddie wears a plaid version of her one dress to call off her own wedding. James and Paul get into a bitchy slap fight at the altar. Jane Seymour calls, and Maddie answers the phone in the middle of all of this. “Don’t panic, but I’m in the hospital in Des Moines,” Seymour says.

42. James storms out, and Maddie runs after him. “I should never have stayed on this job,” he says, gaslighting her. “I’ve become too emotionally involved.” They kiss (the one moment of physical contact allotted in Lohan’s contract), and the camera spins around them in dramatic slo-mo. James runs away.

43. Sobbing, Maddie speeds down the Irish roadways in a long-lens drone shot that turns into an obvious luxury-car advertisement. She finds and begs Saint Brigid to “unwish my wish.” Half the movie plays back in reverse, an amazing budget hack.

44. Maddie reawakens back in her old life. Jane Seymour calls her again and talks about taking meds for her arthritis. Seymour’s character is a more traditional big-pharma plant.

45. In what is clearly a reshoot, based on several just slightly wrong costume moments and Curry’s very different wig, everyone is at Paul and Emma’s wedding. Finn has inexplicably disappeared. Kory dances sensually with an unnamed woman; perhaps we are now in some third multiverse, where he is straight. “Okay, fine. He’s not into me. I’m moving on,” says Heather, sighing. A man appears next to her, and she asks him to dance. He says “yes,” and she says, “Say less,” which is demonstrably not possible.

46. Maddie turns down Paul’s offer to work on his next book. She walks out of her lifelong best friend Emma’s wedding. “Where are you going?” he asks. “To write my own story!” she says.

47. Maddie finds James near the reanimated Scruffy Murphy’s. In this Straight-Kory Universe, they have met only briefly on the bus or maybe never, but anyway, he reveals he is no longer photographing the endangered tree lizard because fuck that guy. She reveals to him that she is writing a book on the Cliffs of Moher. “That’s one of my favorite spots,” he says of the cliffs. “Mine too,” she says. “Maybe we can go there someday.”

48. In what is obviously a shot recycled from their previous Cliffs of Moher visit, Maddie and James, dressed in the exact same outfits and hairstyles as before, wander the totally empty tourist trap that is the Cliffs of Moher. Maddie uses her unethically obtained interdimensional psychic knowledge to pretend that she really wants to play darts and do the Irish jig later, suggesting yet again that their romance is not organic but a direct result of the systematic abuse of the rules of time travel. Love, in other words, is possible only by covert manipulation. Appropriately, the film ends with a song by Aliana Lohan, Lindsay’s sister.

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