There’s more old-fashioned blarney on show in Widows’ Peak than at a shamrock-growers’ convention. One-two-three teaming of Mia Farrow, Joan Plowright and Natasha Richardson manages to keep the dramatically rickety craft afloat through star power alone.
Irish scribe Hugh Leonard’s story was written years earlier for Maureen O’Sullivan and her daughter Mia Farrow. Farrow 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-’20s in the spa resort of Kilshannon, a stuffy, parochial, middle-class enclave socially ruled by a Mrs Doyle Counihan (Plowright), high priestess of a section dubbed Widows’ 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 D.C.’s son, Godfrey (Adrian Dunbar), dancing on a string but is seemingly loathed by the dowdy O’Hare. 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 – until a final double-twist that’s not entirely unexpected.
Forty years earlier, Widows’ Peak would have been shot on an M-G-M backlot with studio interiors. 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.