Agnes Browne Review

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A resourceful Dublin widow clashes with a persistant loan shark in '60s Ireland.


While underlining American romanticism of working-class Irish culture, Angelica Huston's sophomore directorial effort Agnes Browne - with dreary inevitability - succumbs to Hollywood airbrushing in its adaptation of Brendan O'Carroll's bestseller, The Mammy.

Huston is Browne, a widowed mother of seven forced to borrow from loanshark Mr. Billy (Winstone, offering up a possibly unique cockney-oirish crossover dialect) in order to bury her husband. By night, Agnes longingly dances away to her Tom Jones records, sporting black lingerie and suspiciously groomed tresses. By day, she works on a fruit 'n' veg stall, wittering away with pal Marion (an incongruously brilliant Marion O'Dwyer) and rebuffing the advances of Gallic baker Pierre (Arno Chevalier). When she finally manages to pay off Mr. Billy, the shark surreptitiously lends money to one of the Browne sons, so the family are once more in debt.

From here on, the plot hurtles towards its seemingly bleak conclusion, as disaster befalls Marion and Mr. Billy threatens to strip the Browne home of every stick of furniture. Then, oddly enough, Tom Jones, visiting Dublin on tour (and making no effort to take 30 years off his appearance) makes an utterly bizarre cameo.

Agnes Browne isn't entirely terrible. Many of the conversational set-pieces between O'Dwyer and Huston (whose Irish affectations are near-faultless) are salty enough to raise a smile - none better than their intimidation of the former's driving instructor. But elsewhere, in its overcooked sentimentality and often lazy production values, Agnes Browne is simply a missed opportunity.

A disappointing slice of sentimental blarney.