Broome … Natasha Richardson

Godfrey … Adrian Dunbar

Clancy … Jim Broadbent

With: Anne Kent, John Kavanagh, Rynagh O’Grady, Gerard McSorley, Michael James Ford, Garrett Keogh.

There’s more old-fashioned blarney on show in “Widow’s Peak” than at a shamrock-growers convention. Comedy-drama about dark deeds in a picturesque Irish village should generate pleasant biz among undemanding folk, despite uneven plotting and featherweight content. One-two-three teaming of Mia Farrow, Joan Plowright and Natasha Richardson manages to keep the dramatically rickety craft afloat through star power alone. Now playing in the U.K., film begins its Stateside playoff April 29.

Though pic looks like a shameless endeavor to cash in on the “Enchanted April” crock of gold, Irish scribe Hugh Leonard’s story was written years ago for Maureen O’Sullivan and her daughter Mia Farrow. By a curious twist of cinematic fate, Farrow now ends up playing her mom’s role, Richardson Farrow’s role, and the whole shebang was shot in County Wicklow, home ground for O’Sullivan and familiar turf for Farrow.

Yarn is set during the mid-1920s in the spa resort of Kilshannon. Town is a stuffy, parochial, middle-class enclave, socially ruled by Mrs. Doyle Counihan (Plowright), high priestess of a section of the village dubbed Widow’s Peak, whose members also include penurious spinster Miss O’Hare (Farrow), a Brit-hater with a murky past.

Enter American of Brit descent Edwina Broome (Richardson), a superglam World War I widow who soon has Godfrey (Adrian Dunbar), D.C.’s son, dancing on a string but is seemingly loathed by the dowdy O’Hare.

Hostility between the feuding femmes leads to Edwina’s ramming of O’Hare’s boat at the Kilshannon regatta, and the latter’s moves to stir up local opinion that Edwina wants her dead.

There’s a sudden clanking of dramatic gears 70 minutes in, when all this whimsy takes on a darker edge. Each woman learns the dark truth about the other’s background, leading to a dramatic piece when O’Hare crashes Edwina’s engagement lunch. There’s a final double-twist that’s not entirely unexpected.

Forty years ago, “Widow’s Peak” would have been shot on an MGM backlot. Here, belief is suspended by the sound of Plowright and Farrow grappling with Irish accents, and Richardson with an American accent. Pic needs a sharper script and pacier direction to counter the earthbound realism of locations on display here.

Unlike, say, “Hear My Song,” the pic never takes wing and flies. That’s also because most of the plotting is crammed into the final 30 minutes after an hour or so of strolling around the block. Dramatic imbalance keeps “Peak’s” wheels firmly on the ground.

Main pleasure is watching the trio of thesps have a fine old time. Richardson is nicely insouciant as the glamorous outsider; Plowright does her usual shtick with tart one-liners; and Farrow, though looking a tad young for her role, has a kind of wild believability as a paranoid victim. Dunbar is OK but overshadowed in such company.

Tech credits, from Carl Davis’ score to costuming and lensing, all contribute to a pleasant package, though print caught had a slightly washed-out look, with weak greens and too much red.

Widow's Peak

(Period drama -- Color)


A Fine Line (U.S.)/Rank (U.K.) release of a Rank Film Distributors/Fine Line Features presentation, with participation of British Screen, of a Jo Manuel production. Produced by Manuel. Executive producer, Michael White. Co-producer, Tracey Seaward. Directed by John Irvin. Screenplay, Hugh Leonard, from his original story.


Camera (color), Ashley Rowe; editor, Peter Tanner; music, Carl Davis; production design, Leo Austin; costume design, Consolata Boyle; sound (Dolby), Peter Lindsay; assistant director, Martin O'Malley; casting, Nuala Moiselle. Reviewed at MGM Shaftesbury Avenue Theater, Jan. 20, 1994. Running time: 102 min.


Miss O'Hare ... Mia Farrow Mrs. Doyle Counihan ...Joan Plowright
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