Anjelica Huston meant only to direct this working-class fairy tale, but took on the titular role when the original lead dropped out. Adapted from stand-up comic Brendan O'Carrol's first novel, The Mammy, the story of Agnes... more » Browne takes place in 1960s Dublin, where the newly widowed Browne bravely deals with too little money and too many (seven) kids. She's supported through her troubles by her best friend (Marion O'Dwyer); a goofy-faced, adoring French baker (Arno Chevrier); the aforementioned brood--and her dream of one day meeting Tom Jones (materializing conveniently to belt out "She's a Lady"). Ray Winstone (superb in Gary Oldman's Nil by Mouth) plays local loan shark as nasty ogre, the one rotten spot in a neighborhood so whimsically benign it makes Capra's Bedford Falls look downright unfriendly. Having grown up in Galway, Huston should be no stranger to Gaelic life. And her first film, Bastard Out of Carolina, showed a willingness to plumb the darkest recesses of the human heart. But Agnes Browne, all unearned sweetness and light, is feel-good soap opera tricked up as an Irishwoman's "feminist" bid for independence. Too often, Huston generates smiles out of quaint-Irish caricature: giggling over "organisms"--orgasms!--Agnes and her benighted pal later wonder whether breast cancer comes from having had two in a lifetime. After a surfeit of "Jaysuses" and pub sing-alongs, you yearn for the sharp comedy of Roddy Doyle's reality-based Dublin stories, such as The Snapper or The Commitments. If you fell for the ethnic hilarity of Waking Ned Devine, you'll love Agnes Browne's Hollywood hokum about an Ireland that never was. --Kathleen Murphy« less
""Agnes Browne" is a genuine charmer, a simple, but heartwarming comedy/drama directed by and starring the magnificent Anjelica Huston. Set in a lower class Dublin neighborhood in 1967, the story centers around Agnes, an attractive woman whose husband has just died leaving her sole provider for her seven children, ranging in age from early adolescence to diaper-wetting toddler. With the love of her best friend, Marion, to support her (this almost seems to be more of a love story between them than between Agnes and Pierre, the local Frenchman who falls for her), Agnes learns to cope with financial set backs, the neighborhood extortionist, the growing pains of her children and, most tragically, the terminal illness of someone very dear to her heart."Agnes Browne" could have emerged as a heavy-handed wallow in tragedy and bathos, but those involved both in front of and behind the cameras have managed to maintain an air of breezy likeability even in the film's darkest moments. If there is a criticism to be leveled against the movie, it would probably be that the film is actually - at a mere 92-minute running time - a bit too short. We occasionally feel we are being rushed from one event to another without time for proper reflection. Moreover, a number of the characters - prime among them Pierre and several of the children - tend to get lost in the shuffle. As the silent, sensitive and understanding merchant who woos and wins Agnes, Pierre simply seems too much like the "ideal man" stereotype who always seems to be just waiting in the wings the moment one of these attractive but harried movie widows/divorcees is starting life anew out on her own. A much more well rounded and three-dimensional character is that of Agnes' best friend, Marion, (beautifully portrayed by Marion O'Dwyer), a warmhearted, fun-loving woman who provides the kind of confidant and companion that all of us would love to have in our lives. But the real selling point of "Agnes Browne" is, undoubtedly, the luminous performance delivered by Anjelica Huston herself. This fine actress manages to flow seamlessly in and out of a wide variety of emotionally demanding moods and moments. Stern and demanding one moment, she can be forgiving and loving the next. Whether alternately strong or vulnerable, idealistic or pragmatic, heartbroken or joyful, Agnes is a character who demands and earns the complete attention and respect from the audience who can't help but be riveted by her every move. With her glowing portrayal, Huston literally lights up the center of this movie.Yes, the fairy tale ending may seem a bit out of place perhaps. Yet, in a way, for all its moments of death, heartbreak and sorrow, "Agnes Browne" never really aspires to be anything BUT a charming fairy tale. Given the quality of so much of what we see up on the screen, we really couldn't ask for more."
Huston Brings Out The Irish
Reviewer | 02/20/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In Dublin, 1967, a woman with seven children is suddenly faced with the travails of widowhood in "Agnes Browne," directed by and starring Anjelica Huston. After the unexpected death of her husband, life becomes something less than a picnic for Agnes (Huston), what with children ranging in age from two to fourteen and no assets to speak of. She keeps her head above water and some food on the table by selling fruit at an outdoor market, but makes barely enough to make ends meet, while she awaits her widow's pension from her late husband's union. But even when and if it comes, she realizes it won't be enough on which to live. It's a bleak state of affairs for Agnes, who luckily has a dear friend, Marion (Marion O'Dwyer), who is always there for her; and with friendship, a sense of humor, and the dream of seeing Tom Jones in concert, it's enough to keep her going as she manages to take it all one day at a time. There are poignant moments in this character driven, heartwarming film, as well as some funny ones; Huston has done an outstanding job of creating a mood and an atmosphere that brings the Irish working class vividly to life, and she populates her landscape with characters who are not only real, but incredibly rich in their humanity. She captures the heart of Agnes and the others with an emotional depth that draws in the viewer and allows the empathy through which an intimate bond with the characters is established. And they quickly become more than just characters in a story; these are people you come to care about, and when something bad or untoward happens to any of them, you feel it just as deeply as they. Huston gives a terrific performance as Agnes, imbuing her with both a strength and vulnerability that make her real. She has a look of world-weariness about her, but there's a glint of hope and humor in her eyes, which are like a doorway to her soul; you need only look there to know what she is feeling inside. And Huston plays it all so perfectly. In her motion picture debut, O'Dwyer gives a memorable performance as well, as Marion; though nondescript in appearance, there is nevertheless something charming about this woman, and it has everything to do with "character." Through her unwavering loyalty to Agnes she personifies the meaning of friendship, and exemplifies how invaluable a true friend can be, especially in times of need. It's a touching portrayal that is one of the strengths of the film. The supporting cast includes Niall O'Shea (Mark), Ciaran Owens (Frankie), Roxanna Williams (Cathy), Carl Power (Simon), Mark Power (Dermot), Ray Winstone (Mr. Billy), June Rodgers (Fat Annie), Jennifer Gibney (Winnie the Mackerel) and Tom Jones as himself. No stranger to all things Irish, Huston was the perfect choice to star in and direct this project. With "Agnes Browne," she succeeds splendidly, with a film that is striking both visually and emotionally. And, lest it be taken for granted, one need but consider Alan Parker's "Angela's Ashes," which visited the same territory but came off flat and uninspired, especially compared to Huston's film, which so distinctly and fervently imparts the essence of the proud Irish poor. Largely ignored during it's theatrical release, this film hopefully will find a second life on DVD and video, and realize the acclaim it so richly deserves. A real sleeper, this is a gem of a film just waiting to be discovered."
Fantastic acting and heartwarming story
William Langlois | Rochester, MN United States | 03/04/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was watching the movie on the WE network and just had to order the DVD. This was fabulously done and a real "must see" by those
seeking tounge-in-cheek romantic drama."
A realistic look at life in Dublin in the '60s
Harry G. Holstine | Sacramento, CA | 01/02/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Agnes Browne is one of my favorite Irish films of all time. Set in Dublin in 1967, it is about the struggles of Agnes, played by Academy Award winner Angelica Huston, who also directed the film, A Moore Street fruit and veg stand vendor, whose husband dies in an auto accident, and she is left to raise their seven children. Anjelica had much of her early education in Ireland, so she knows about Irish life, and made sure that her film was loaded with realism. My wife was born and raised in Ireland, and says that Anjelica's Dublin accent was flawless. She was not so kind about other American acresses, playing Irish parts, like Julia Roberts in "Michael Collins," or Cameron Diaz in "Gangs of New York." The language in this film might seem a little strong to somw viewers, but it is very realistic for Dubliners, so it adds to the film's quest to just "Tell it like it is." Huston surrounded herself with experienced Irish actors, led by Marion O'Dwyer, who plays her best friend and fellow street vendor Marion. The friendship between these two is one of the highlights of this amazing film, but the interaction between the two of them with other venders carries a lot of weight also. In her situation, Agnes was bound to have financial problems, and went to local gangster "Mister Billy," who thinks nothing of dealing with children and has an unorthodox collection system, and no sympathy for the poor souls he lends money to. Overall, this film keeps drawing you in, and makes you want more, which is why you feel kind of sorry when it ends, because you want it to continue. My wife and I watch Agnes Browne whenever we need a pick-me-up, and we always feel better after watching it."
"Agnes Browne has to be one of my all time favorite movies. I have watched this numerous times and walk away each time with something new. It's about friendship, life, struggles...and Angelica Houston is just so fabulous. WOW! I laughed and cried so much throughout the movie, I went throught tissue after tissue. Watch with you're best girlfriend. I know I sent a copy to mine. I also own one and bought another for my Mother. A movie that just really stayed with me."