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Angela's Ashes
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by BeTheBuddha

"'Tis a great movie..."
4 stars

“Supermodels with legs up to their shoulders kept coming up and praising me. I said to my wife, ‘If this had happened 30 years ago, I’d be dead of whiskey and fornication.’”

In Angela’s Ashes, based on Frank McCourt’s Pulitzer-prize winning bestseller of the same name, director Alan Parker has transformed McCourt’s words into a visual journey of his childhood during famine-stricken Ireland in the 1930s.

The film chronicles the life of the McCourts from their uncommon exit of the Americas back to Limerick, Ireland to Frank’s subsequent return to the Americas over a decade later. Narrated with the wisdom of an adult but told through the eyes of a child, Angela’s Ashes retains its innocent humor (“In the name of the father, the son, and the holy toast”) while displaying the bleakness of life in Ireland in the early 20th century ridden with disease and poverty.

With Robert Carlyle (The World Is Not Enough, Priest, The Full Monty) playing the senior Malachy McCourt, an alcoholic father and Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, The Cradle Will Rock) playing the title role of Angela McCourt, matriarch to the McCourt clan, the film finds Frank torn between parents. One takes him away from the dark reality that exists around him through his highly charged imagination and storytelling while the other sacrifices everything to keep her family together – and alive.

As Malachy Sr. does his best to find a job, no one will hire him because of his northern Irish accent. We subsequently find him in one pub after another, drinking away any and all money he ever earns or otherwise obtains. Meanwhile, Angela (Watson) is at home doing her best to feed her malnourished children, not above begging from churches for clothes, furniture, and food for her family.

The beautiful Emily Watson took on the role of Angela McCourt because “I was attracted to the story because there is humour in the story as well as the tragedy. A lot of it is told from a child’s point of view, and it is very funny. And with Alan Parker directing the film? Well, let’s just say you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.”

While Malachy Sr. is ultimately portrayed as a deadbeat dad, readers around the world have him to thank for the time he did spend with his son. During that time he is able to instill in young Frank a love for stories and storytelling. Carlyle, says of the patriarch of the McCourt family, “It would seem to me to be too obvious to paint the guy as a villain. The way I see it, he’s as much a victim as anyone else – his crime was to get addicted to the alcohol. To paint Malachy McCourt as the villain of the piece I think would be to let the society which allowed these conditions to exist off very lightly.”

What attracted Carlyle to the film? “Several things: the book and then the screenplay – it’s a magnificent piece of work. It is sad; there is a lot of misery in this piece, there’s a lot of tragedy, but there’s triumph there as well. The fact that anyone can emerge from this with any kind of dignity at all is a triumph in itself, and Frank McCourt certainly did that.”

The three actors (Joe Breen, Ciaran Owens, Michael Legge) cast as Frank McCourt through various stages of adolescence epitomize the real Frank McCourt as seen in the pages of his book. Breen, a first time actor who beat out 15,000 children for the role of the youngest Frank McCourt, brought to life the stubborn reality McCourt faced as a child. So much so that that stubbornness is plastered on every publicity kit and ad campaign for the film (and even the mass market paperback version of McCourt’s book.) The son of a farmer in County Wexford, Breen would still milk the cows every day before leaving for the set.

When the real Frank McCourt visited the set and watched unassumingly from a corner, Alan Parker asked Joe, “Do you know who this gentleman is?” With that Joe answered, “Yes, me when I’m older.”

Of the set he visited, McCourt said, “My old headmaster, Mr. O’Halloran, has four sons here in Dublin. They had some of the maps and charts from his old schoolroom wall and supplied them to the movie. So that was weird seeing them. Then these kids come trooping in. It was happening all over again. They were barefoot with shaved heads and raggedy clothes. I felt strange, so I had to go and have a pint with Emily Watson and my wife. I was jolted into the past. It was so authentic what they did with that classroom. I expected the schoolmaster to turn on me at any minute with the stick.”

And what of McCourt’s newfound fame at the age of 67? Says McCourt, “Supermodels with legs up to their shoulders kept coming up and praising me. I said to my wife, ‘If this had happened 30 years ago, I’d be dead of whiskey and fornication.’”

And what was McCourt’s impression of the film? “I loved the film when I saw it finished… Alan understood what I was getting at. When you’re Irish and you write a book, reviewers invariably say it is charming, lyrical, poetic. I wanted them to say it was urban and gritty. Alan knows because he comes from a blue-collar background. I come from a no-collar background.” And what was my impression of the film? One word: “’Tis.”

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=3425&reviewer=195
originally posted: 12/14/99 17:37:39
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User Comments

8/16/07 marina depressing 3 stars
7/08/04 tatum Excellent 5 stars
1/28/03 Pinkline Jones The feelgood film of the Year - Lots of laughs for the whole family 5 stars
8/08/01 Valerie It was very depressing, but it left me feeling appreciative of my childhood. 4 stars
6/12/01 Terrie Smith Excellent novel but the film was a disappointment; Emily Watson keeps the film alive. 4 stars
8/17/00 Girl 9 An unpredictible captivating story with a few good laughs on the side. 4 stars
6/26/00 rob in pa Outstanding-beautifully done from start to finish. 5 stars
5/18/00 John It is good, I loved it. 5 stars
5/17/00 Elvisfan Completely unsentimental, engrossing, beautiful, heartbreaking 5 stars
5/03/00 Jean woow 5 stars
4/16/00 punkass Whilst there is real tradgedy in this film, the humour and human spirit keep you going. 3 stars
3/07/00 Dick a little long but engrossing 4 stars
2/14/00 earl duron wonderful slice of life 5 stars
2/12/00 jenn "Blu Smrf" amazing, a true work of art! it's long, yet worth every possible minute given to you! 5 stars
2/11/00 Skye Chapman parker missed boat. emotionally bland. no delight or triumph 2 stars
2/10/00 Victor Ramirez Is it just me or is Emily Whatson Hot as fuck? I think I am in love. 4 stars
2/10/00 Richard Wright Well acted and some moving parts, but far too long and they laid the tragedy a bit thick. 3 stars
2/07/00 Peter H. Burris Susceptible to mawkish sentiment, but well executed, noentheless 4 stars
1/30/00 Kevin Cho, movie-buff Disappointing from all the drama hype. Good movie, left me w/ headache. 3 stars
1/29/00 Irma Schwartz Worth the long journey... 4 stars
1/22/00 Kevin Cho Tear jerker - top acting, not as good as book, but still great. 5 stars
12/28/99 Dan R. Moving and well acted. 4 stars
12/24/99 Tha Obsequious Bad Janatah Please, hang me now! Simply god-awful (sorry God!) 1 stars
12/23/99 Bozo It was beautiful & heartbreaking & even funny, sometimes all at the same time 5 stars
12/19/99 Joe-139 Excellent performances all around. 5 stars
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  21-Jan-2000 (R)



Directed by
  Alan Parker

Written by
  Alan Parker
  Laura Jones

  Robert Carlyle
  Emily Watson
  Shane Murray-Corcoran

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