Movie Review By Casey McCabe
The first big elbow in the ribs is the film's title "An Everlasting Piece." That's piece spelled with an "ie" as in hair piece. As in toupee. In case you still don't get it, the film's poster features the planet Earth with a toupee on its pole and the additional tag line "Piece On Earth." Again, that's piece with an "ie." But make no mistake, "An Everlasting Piece" is also about peace with an "ea." As in white doves. As in what Northern Ireland needs more of. And indeed it is in the divided city of Belfast where director Barry Levinson's new film takes place.
Colm and George are barbers at an insane asylum. One is Catholic, one is Protestant. And one of the insane is a man known as Scalper, the owner of the only toupee business in Northern Ireland, whose incarceration for, yes, literally scalping people, means there is now a sudden vacancy for the coveted toupee monopoly. Colm and George, who became fast friends despite the religious and political barriers, now become business partners, adding one more pun to the mix as "The Piece People." But nature and motion pictures abhor a vacuum, so a rival hair piece company emerges. And their name would be Toupee or Not Toupee. The competition is enlisted and a ticking clock introduced as the company selling the most toupees by deadline will earn the manufacturer's exclusive territory. What will Colm and George do to win? Will a Protestant sell toupees to help IRA terrorists disguise themselves? Will a Catholic sell toupees to occupying British soldiers so stressed out they are loosing their hair in clumps?
Levison and screenwriter Barry McEvoy have dealt themselves a decidedly wacky hand; one that could be played for devilish satire or stirring sentiment at any given turn. But overconfident, perhaps, in the arch comedy of its premise, the charm of an Irish accent, and the innate drama of the troubles in Northern Ireland, the film somehow manages to misplay its hand at virtually every turn. By the time it has laid all its cards on the table — an awkwardly paced process — our ribs are already bruised from the nudging. Was there ever any question what this film would teach us?
Screenwriter McEvoy, who also stars as Colm, grew up in Belfast, the son of a barber who once sold hair pieces. McEvoy's heart is no doubt in the right place and he would appear lucky to have attracted a major director like Levinson. Think of something between Levinson's "Tin Men" and "Wag the Dog," something both sympathetic and stinging, and Irish instead of Baltimorean, and you get the idea of the film "An Everlasting Piece" might have become.
But sadly, Levinson doesn't take the film much farther than the overwrought pun it hangs its hat on in the first place. I'd be a bald-faced liar if I didn't call it a disappointment. It just can't comb over its glaring shortcomings. And thus I predict it will quickly be swept under the rug.
Heh-heh. Get it? Oh never mind. I guess I've said my piece.
© 2000 - Casey McCabe - Air Date: 12/27/00
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