Thank God I love Irish accents. If not, I really would have hated Agnes Browne, the second film directed by Angelica Huston (also starring in the title role – but I’ll get into that later). You would think coming from the genes of the legendary John Huston, Angelica would have inherited some of her father’s talents. Guess what? She didn’t. In fact, one word kept repeating in my mind over and over again. That word is vain.
My good friend Webster defines vain in the following ways: 1. having no real value, worthless; 2. without effect, futile; and 3. having an excessively high regard for one’s self, looks, etc, conceited. Agnes Browne hits the mark on all three levels.
In the opening scene, we discover Agnes’ husband has died and left her with seven children to feed (sounds a lot like that other Irish movie, I know). She’s dirt poor, and the local townsfolk aren’t much better off. But even though they have no money and all their loved ones are dying, they are Irish so they still manage to sing and dance at a local pub. Okay, so it’s because they’re drunk off their a*s on Guinness. But still, these kinds of old jokes make the film’s emotional moments feel hollow.
For instance, a few weeks after Agnes has coped with the death of her husband, her best friend feels a lump on her breast. About a month later, she dies of cancer. It should be very sad, but I just couldn’t buy it. It seemed too forced. And hammering home that point were those God-awful soft-focus shots. You know, the ones all actresses over 40 (and Robert Redford) demand for their close-ups to hide their wrinkles. Look, we know you’re old. But I would rather look at some lines on your face than a movie screen bathed in Vaseline.
Which brings me to my ultimate pet peeve – actors directing themselves. Is it me or should no other actor besides maybe Clint Eastwood cast themselves in the starring role of a film they direct? It just seems really narcissistic that someone would think they could objectively call their own scenery chewing serious acting. I just know that after every take, they turn into Garry Shandling and run over to the playback monitor to see how their hair looks or if their a*s is big.
It’s not that the film is completely awful. But you get the feeling you’ve seen this all before. And when that happens, you can’t help but think you’ve viewed this movie in vain.