An Everlasting Piece (2000)
Colm: I'm not doing the deal.
Bronagh: I'm not wearing any knickers.- Barry McEvoy, Anna Friel
Stars: Barry McEvoy, Brian O'Byrne, Anna Friel
Other Stars: Billy Connolly, Pauline McLynn, Ruth McCabe, Laurence Kinlan, Colum Convey
Director: Barry Levinson
MPAA Rating: R for language
Run Time: 01h:43m:14s
Release Date: 2001-08-07
DVD ReviewIn this day and age of gross-out comedies that get increasingly vulgar and less funny (for example, Say It Ain't So!), it's rare to see a comedy that actually has a funny script and uses no toilet humor to get its laughs. An Everlasting Piece is one of those rare comedies. An innocent movie at heart (it got its "R" rating for language), it proves that there is more to comedy than incest jokes and sleeping with your dirty landlord because you can't pay the month's rent. Coming off like a mix between The Full Monty and The Commitments, it's a charming and thoughtful look at Northern Ireland in the 1980s.
Colm (Barry McEvoy, also the film's writer), a Catholic living at the border of Northern Ireland, gets a job as a barber at a mental hospital. His partner is a Protestant named George (Brian F. O'Byrne), who feels that he is a poet trapped in a barber's body. One of the inmates at the asylum is "The Scalper" (famed Scottish comedian Billy Connolly), a former toupee salesman who went crazy and started scalping his clients. Apparently he had a monopoly in Northern Ireland, and became rich before he went crazy. He keeps a list of his clients hidden in his Bible. Colm sees a way to get rich quick, and he coaxes the Scalper to give up his list. Seeing as how Colm is Catholic, and George is Protestant, they decide to call themselves the Piece People. Get it? Eh? Eh? Yeah, I didn't like it either. Anyway, they get off to a bumbling start and then another wig company, Toupee or Not Toupee (Get it? Eh? Eh? Eh - .) sets up shop. Turns out their supplier has decided to hold a contest: whichever company sells the most toupees by Christmas gets the monopoly in Northern Ireland. Of course, Toupee or Not Toupee does better, meaning that Colm and George have to go to further extremes to sell their wares. Mix in trouble with the I.R.A. and the local police, and you have a wonderfully screwball comedy.
Now, it's not perfect. The movie tries to mix in social commentary with its humor, not realizing that the humor itself could have provided a better commentary than any dramatic scene. Couple this attempt at a more serious message with flawed pacing and you get some sequences that drag like a snail with a broken heel. Also, the ending message is delivered somewhat ham handedly, but all of these flaws can be forgiven because they are relatively minor in the grand scheme of things. Most of the movie is witty and pleasurably humorous.
A lot of the humor comes from Barry McEvoy's script. McEvoy's father used to be a barber/hairpiece salesman in Northern Ireland. After years of hearing anecdotes, Barry persuaded his father to put his stories down on tape. Coming away with over seven hours of stories, McEvoy picked the best ones and used them as the basis for his script. Of course, any good comic writer would add a few humorous embellishments, but the events in the movie do seem realistic. Not only that, but the dialogue is outright hilarious. For example, one potential customer thinks that they're selling "herpes" instead of "hairpieces." And, if you listen, "herpes" and "hairpieces" do sound pretty close in an Irish accent. Again, the only time the script runs into problems is when McEvoy tries to say something profound about the Protestant/Catholic grudge in Ireland. The humorous scenes on the same subject get the point across in a far more subtle and effective way.
The whole thing is marvelously played out by the lead actors. Barry McEvoy unsurprisingly wrote the meatiest part for himself, but pulls it off well. I personally preferred Brian F. O'Byrne's reading of George. O'Byrne plays George as a simple man who knows where he fits in life, and the entire toupee scheme is actually extremely far out for him. Anna Friel is hilarious as Colm's girlfriend who shoots her mouth off at every opportunity, yet is actually the backbone of the whole operation. All three actors play their parts with sincerity and don't go over the top (which would have been easy to do). The supporting actors also do a good job of keeping up the general atmosphere. The only misstep in the cast is Billy Connolly as The Scalper. Since The Scalper is basically a plot device, Connolly doesn't get to do much, and when he is on screen, he seems lost and out of place with the rest of the film.
Barry Levinson directed An Everlasting Piece, but this isn't the Barry Levinson of Wag The Dog or Good Morning, Vietnam. Levison seems to have stumbled through this one. While it begins at a nice brisk pace, the film falls off when the I.R.A. is introduced. Again, I believe the problem is in the writing, and Levinson tried to do the best with what he had. The thing is, there are certain scenes that, while funny, aren't important to the story. If Levinson had interjected those later in the film, it would have created a nice counterbalance between the slow scenes that drag the movie down and it would have worked better as a whole picture.
Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: B+
|Aspect Ratio||1.85:1 - Widescreen|
|Original Aspect Ratio||yes|
Image Transfer Review: An Everlasting Piece had the good fortune to be released by Dreamworks, certainly one of the leaders in the DVD industry. They keep up appearances with this stunning transfer, completely free of dirt, scratches, pops, transfer artifacts, or any other defect. The color palette is balanced to a "T." While the blacks are nice and solid, it's still easy to see in the darker and nighttime scenes. It's a joy to watch this movie with such an incredible transfer.
Image Transfer Grade: A
Audio Transfer Review: To keep up with their flawless transfer, Dreamworks has also provided two very good 5.1 mixes. The DTS mix is audibly better than the Dolby Digital one, with crystal clear dialogue and sound effects that are highly delineated. The mix is pretty active, with the rears getting a good workout from both the soundtrack, ambient effects, and directional effects. The Dolby Digital mix sounds muddy in comparison to the DTS, but it's not bad by any means. And there's also an adequate 2.0 track.
Audio Transfer Grade: A
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 20 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
Cast and Crew Biographies
1 Original Trailer(s)
Layers Switch: 00h:59m:21s
Extras Review: Although it sports a great transfer and two very good 5.1 mixes, An Everlasting Piece is woefully short on extras. We get a terrible theatrical trailer, cast and crew bios, and production notes. The cast and crew bios are rather in depth, as are the production notes. The production notes are also provided in the accompanying booklet, in case one should want to refer to them without popping the disc into the player. It would have been nice to hear a commentary, see some deleted scenes, and have a Making-of. It's a shame that such an enjoyable movie should be so devoid of extras.
Extras Grade: C-
Final CommentsAn Everlasting Piece is a very funny movie. Sure, it's not perfect, but the sheer amount of quality comedy overcomes the film's flaws. This movie is worth at least a rent, especially if you're sick of all these gross-out comedies and want a more intelligent one.
Daniel Hirshleifer 2001-08-06