Agnes Browne

dir Anjelica Huston
scr John Goldsmith, Brendan O'Carroll
with Anjelica Huston, Marion O'Dwyer, Ray Winstone, Arno Chevrier, Niall O'Shea, Ciaran Owens, Roxanna Williams, Gavin Kelty, Carl Power, Mark Power, Gerald McSorley, Tom Jones
Universal 99/Ireland 1 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
One can only guess that Ms Huston was trying to capture some of the quirky charm of her homeland with Agnes Browne. But watching the film you also get the feeling that she was trying to capture another Oscar as well. The film is a catch-all for Irish cliches, goofy little anecdotes and Real Life Moments that only exist in the movies. And with its unintentionally funny examination of a woman struggling to raise her kids in 1960s Dublin, it plays like a spoof of Angela's Ashes.

The film opens as the just-widowed Agnes (Huston) is left to cope with seven (count 'em!) kids with the help of her batty best pal Marion (O'Dwyer). Soon she's in hawk to the local loan shark (Winstone), and the new French baker (Chevrier) is eyeing her up. What follows is an increasingly predictable blend of comedy, romance, tragedy and so on.

And it's positively excruciating! Huston merely jumps from one bit of cute Oirish quirkiness to the next, including (I kid you not) a band member playing spoons on his cheek, a silly coffin switcheroo and a little girl doing Riverdance on the street. Not to mention the "magical" day out at the seaside, the oh-so-romantic (and very French) first date, a wacky driving lesson and a jaw-dropping appearance by Tom Jones as himself. I could go on. There's not a single convincing scene in the film ... and the actors ham it up mercilessly (only Winstone and O'Dwyer emerge with any dignity; Huston is shockingly bad as the glamorous supermam). If this had been played as a straight comedy, it could have been quite hilarious, but Huston seems to see it as an actor's tour de force as Agnes embarks on a voyage of self-discovery. Not even close.

[15--themes, language] 29.Feb.00
US release 10.Dec.99; UK release 3.Mar.00

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"I absolutely loved the movie! I am of Irish heritage, I love Anjelica Huston, and I think she did a wonderful job in the movie. Sure, it was a little silly in parts, but there were some serious parts as well. I loved how they got the funeral screwed up, but with Marion's breast cancer, it was still a very emotional film. I think Anjelica was great, not fake at all! It didn't seem like a really deep film, but it had its own messages hidden beneath the vast amount of tom-foolery. I think it was brilliant! 10 stars, definitely." --Sadie O'Malley, Canada 20.Apr.02
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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall