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Friday, 5 January, 2001, 06:25 GMT
Hell toupee over Irish wig farce
An Everlasting Piece, copyright 2000 DreamWorks SKG
An Everlasting Piece, copyright 2000 DreamWorks SKG
The BBC's Neil Smith reviews An Everlasting Piece

An Everlasting Piece, a movie set during the Troubles in Northern Ireland, seems to be having troubles of its own.

It is an American-funded attempt to find whimsical comedy in Northern Ireland's deep-seated sectarian divisions.

DreamWorks, the studio which made the film, is owned by Steven Spielberg.

It has been accused of not knowing what to do with this frivolous tale of two hairpiece salesmen cutting a rug in '80s Belfast.

Having allegedly instructed director Barry Levinson to trim down the script's political undertones, studio bosses are alleged to have hacked the film's release pattern from 750 cinemas down to a meagre eight.

The film is a marked change of pace for Levinson, Oscar-winning director of Good Morning Vietnam and Rain Man.

Jaunty

Had the flick been directed by a newcomer, it would have been a lot easier to brush under the carpet - if that is indeed what is happening.

As it is, An Everlasting Piece - like The Devil's Own and Patriot Games before it - is another example of Hollywood's tendency to blunder into areas about which it has little understanding or empathy.

The picture starts jauntily enough, with two hospital barbers - Catholic Colm (Barry McEvoy, who also penned the screenplay) and Protestant George (Brian F O'Byrne) - putting aside their differences to fill the gap left by the internment of toupee merchant 'Scalper' (Billy Connolly, whose part amounts to little more than a raucous cameo).

Egged on by Colm's girlfriend Bronagh (Brookside's Anna Friel sporting a convincing Ulster brogue), the pair set out to win exclusive access to the province's copious slapheads.

This not only involves competition with another enterprising couple of rug hawkers, but also leads to ethical dilemmas over whether to sell syrups to the IRA and the British Army.

Though amusing in parts (an ageing cleric who will only buy a wig if it's made from Catholic follicles; the way "hairpiece" is continually confused with the word "herpes"), the situation in Northern Ireland is simply too volatile to permit such winsome playfulness.

Perhaps, if the film has been played down, it is to stop US audiences wigging out over Levinson's hair-brained enterprise.

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04 Jan 01 | Northern Ireland
Spielberg accused in movie row
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