Mia Farrow gives such a disturbingly intense performance in “Angela Mooney Dies Again,” a bittersweet, melancholy look at the forces of modernization as they affect a small rural Irish community, that she overshadows the film’s comic tones. Sloppy direction by neophyte Tommy McArdle and too many changes in mood result in an unsatisfying film that will have limited appeal outside Ireland, despite name leads Farrow and Patrick Bergin.
Angela Mooney (Farrow), an attractive, middle-aged, unhappily married woman, is about to commit suicide — again. Every time Angela attempts suicide, her audience gets larger. This time around promises a significant number of spectators: The threatened suicide is “inspired” by the takeover of the local creamery by an American company called Little Rooster Corp.
With the whole town rallying behind the change in ownership and preparing to celebrate, the hysterical Angela is determined to convince her fellow residents that the takeover is wrong; not only will it undo the efforts of her hubby, Barney (Brendan Gleeson), who has worked hard to build the creamery with the locals, but it will have a destructive effect on the town’s distinctive look and charming pastoral roots.
Through flashbacks, it quickly becomes clear that Angela has never recovered from her first love for a young Scottish soldier, Malone (Alan Devine), with whom she had her first passionate sexual experience. It was the handsome Malone who instilled in the young Angela (Lisa O’Reilly) a sense of idealism. But he was brutally expelled from town and later went to the U.S. to pursue a business career, leaving Angela brokenhearted. As often happens in such fables, the older Malone (Patrick Bergin) returns to town as a guest of honor, a rich, elegantly dressed mogul.
The story begins as a broad comedy, with frantic preparations for the festivity involving every town member, from the priest to the entertainment manager. For a while, the film’s robust humor and enchanting mood recall “Local Hero,” Bill Forsyth’s off-kilter comedy about the efforts of an oil company to buy up a Scottish coastal village. But helmer McArdle can’t reconcile the film’s dual themes, the pain of first love and the inevitable march of modern technology. He’s also unsuccessful at integrating the tale’s dramatic and comic elements, resulting in a film that changes tones from scene to scene.
In the central — and weakest — sequence, Angela is in the river, making one last, desperate effort to talk the citizenry out of their folly. The interaction between her and various representatives of the village is so poorly staged and tediously cut that the film never recovers from it. Downbeat ending negates the quirky drollery that judiciously prevailed in the first reel.