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AGNES BROWNE

SYNOPSIS:
It's 1967. When her husband dies unexpectedly, struggling Dubliner Agnes Browne (Anjelica Huston) borrows money from despicable loan shark Mr Billy (Ray Winstone) to give hubby a fitting funeral. She pays the crippling weekly interest and supports her seven children selling fruit and vegetables at her street stall, where she and her best friend Marion (Marion O'Dwyer) dream of better things. And maybe one day going to a Tom Jones concert. But life changes as Marion grows ill and a French baker Pierre (Arno Chevrier) begins to take a romantic interest in Agnes.

"Agnes Browne is a gentle story of a close-knit impoverished community in Dublin, whose great strength is the humanity that it shares. Its greatest joy is the onscreen charisma of its leading lady and director, Anjelica Huston, who captures the warmth and big heart of the Irish people from the lightheartedness of its fiddles, the richness of the Guinness to the good-hearted humour. Originally Huston was only to direct this project, but difficulties securing a star to play the title role, prompted her to play Agnes, drawing on memories of her own Irish nanny and the love of the Irish people. All the strings are pulled for an emotional treat in this touching story of family, community and the individual. The pace is leisurely as the plot unravels, but it is always the people and their lively spirits that give the story appeal. Huston is a natural story-teller, and she seduces us into the world of the Brownes, where 'six jumpers and a cardigan' define the basic needs of this family that sticks together through thick and thin. While the big screen captures the atmosphere and spirit admirably, the screenplay fails to charter the story's dramatic curve to a credible and believable conclusion. The written word of Brendan O'Carroll's novel may well develop and describe the outcome more convincingly, but on the screen, there are some unexplained aspects which are frustrating, and unfortunately the circumstances of Tom Jones' appearance is hurried and appears contrived. The magic is drawn from moments that are incidental to the plot, especially in the scenes between Marion O'Dwyer and Huston, involving girl-talk about 'organisms', girlie humour and the sheer beauty of a rich, treasured relationship. The setting and ingredients are unique to Dublin, the friendship and goodness of humanity is universal in its theme, and delivers an uplifting, emotional journey that is unforgettable."
Louise Keller

"Although I haven't read the book, the film suggests that the book is a colourful and involving read, resonant with character and place. These very qualities are the attractions for people like Huston (and the rest of the talented team) but the film result looks a bit like a marvellous workshop for actors and director. Don't get me wrong, it isn't that self indulgent, but it isn't that well structured, and perhaps Huston is too 'big' for the Agnes character. Ray Winstone's nasty loan shark is a bit overdone, although he does it with his usual inherent nastiness. (I bet he's a real pussy cat at home.) But there are lots of enjoyable moments, shards of Irish humour, shrapnels of painful smiles and splendid cinematography with production design to match. Then there is Arno Chevrier's younger Gerard Depardieu-like persona, and the superbly directed children, all of which make Agnes Browne a pleasure, if not overwhelmingly satisfying as a story."
Andrew L. Urban

"A mistake in every way, beginning with the disastrous decision of director Anjelica Huston to cast herself in a role that appears to call for someone like Brenda Blethyn. Huston’s theatrical good looks have doomed her to a decade of playing stylish fairy-tale monsters – witches, ghouls, evil stepmothers – so you can see why she might want a change of pace. But even when she’s meant to be a dowdy working-class housewife, she’s clearly far more glamorous and commanding than anyone else on screen. (As if to accentuate this effect, she’s surrounded herself with ordinary-faced, dumpy middle-aged women; alongside them she looks more than ever like an alien visitor from Planet Hollywood.) Perhaps no-one could have made any sense out of this character, who’s less a person than a composite of audience-pleasing traits. Agnes Browne is innocently foulmouthed one moment, stern and prudish the next; she’s meant to embody the battling qualities of the Irish people, yet much of the time (especially in the early scenes) she’s vacant to the point of seeming mentally disabled. Overall, the writing is incredibly crude – the villains of the piece, the moneylender Mr Billy and his assistant, are so mean they like to torture widows and beat up little kids. To call this stuff ‘melodramatic’ would be an insult to 19th-century melodrama. Most of it is borrowed from more recent sources – the earthy ‘chick flick’ humour, the vignettes of Irish poverty left over from Angela’s Ashes, the obligatory touch of tragedy at the last minute. At the end, when an obviously present-day Tom Jones walks into a scene that’s meant to be happening in 1967, the whole wobbly scenario collapses round him; you expect him to turn towards the audience, grin, wink, and switch off the lights."
Jake Wilson

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

TRAILER


Director Anjelica Huston

AGNES BROWNE (M)
(US)

CAST: Anjelica Huston, Marion O'Dwyer, Ray Winstone, Arno Chevrier, Gerard McSorley, Niall O'Shea, Ciaran Owens, Roxanna Williams and Tom Jones.

DIRECTOR: Anjelica Huston

PRODUCER: Angelica Huston, John Lappin, Jim Sheridan

SCRIPT: John Goldsmith, Brendan O'Carroll (based on novel The Mammy by Brendan O'Carroll)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anthony B. Richmond

EDITOR: Éva Gardos

MUSIC: Paddy Moloney

PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Brockhurst

RUNNING TIME: 92 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 6, 2000 (Sydney, Melbourne)

VIDEO RELEASE: November 8, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Universal Pictures Video







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