Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Movie – Widows’ Peak (1994)

At first glance Widows’ Peak would be easy to disregard.  On the surface it looks like just another in a long line of quaint, harmless British/Irish films about quaint, harmless British/Irish people.  Well, in the case of Widows’ Peak anyone who thinks either the film, or the women in it, are harmless would be very wrong.  This film is filled with delightfully nasty bits of both humor and drama that added up to a very unexpected pleasure for me.

The title is a play on words.  It doesn’t refer to the hair feature that some people have, but rather to the location where the film takes place.  A hill outside of an Irish town in 1920 is where we lay our story.  Most of the homes on this hill are owned by well-to-do women whose husbands have died – hence the nickname “Widows’ Peak”.

Ruling over all of these women, not with an iron hand, but a sharp tongue, is Mrs. Doyle-Counihan (Joan Plowright).  She has a grown son Godfrey (Adrian Dunbar).  She has also taken under her wing the unfortunate Miss Katherine O’Hare (Mia Farrow channeling her Irish heritage from her mother Maureen O'Sullivan).  She is unfortunate because she has never had a husband.  If Mrs. D-C had her way, Miss O’Hare would marry her son Godfrey.  Katherine, however, has more of an interest in local dentist Con Clancy (Jim Broadbent).

Into this mix comes Mrs. Edwina Broome (Natasha Richardson).  Her husband died in WWI, thus she is a widow, too.  Katherine takes an immediate dislike to her.  First of all, Edwina’s American.  Second of all, her dead husband was British, not Irish.  Third, and perhaps most important, Edwina is young, attractive, and sexy.  While Katherine was no young maiden, she was definitely the youngest, most attractive woman among those who lived on Widows’ Peak.  That is until Edwina moved there.  And Mrs. D-C is given cause to dislike Edwina, too, since her son Godfrey is immediately taken with her.  To make matters worse, Edwina appears to be on some sort of campaign to malign Katherine’s reputation, perhaps in retaliation for Katherine hating her.

No one can quite get a handle on Edwina, though.  Conflicts among the women, especially Edwina and Katherine, start to escalate.  Much of it is verbal, including some very humorous, biting remarks.  It’s all fun and games for the viewer until Edwina turns up missing after a boat ride on a lake.  At this point you find out that while you thought you were watching one kind of movie, it turns out you were watching a very different kind all along.  What happens next is what made this a very enjoyable film for me.  Someday I am going to do an “I didn’t figure out the ending” set of movies and this one will be part of it.

Perhaps you saw this film on the rental shelves back in the mid 1990s and passed it by because of the kind of movie it looked like it would be.  Perhaps you have never even heard of it.  In those cases, if you like dark humor and unexpected turns in movies then I highly recommend you watch this film.

Chip’s Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

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  1. I saw it and liked it a lot. I didn't see the end coming at all.

    1. Wow, eight minutes from posting to first comment. That might be a new record. And I was wondering if this film would get any comments at all, since I didn't know how many people might have seen it. Thanks.

  2. Never even heard of it, but sounds like something I would like!

    1. I think you might (not that you need more movies to watch, what with you going through the 1,001 Movies list.)

  3. I'd never heard of this film and it sounds right up my alley! I'm off to add it to my list. Thanks, Chip.

  4. I watched Widow's Peak because of the cast and was not disappointed. As you say, the ending has a wonderful twist. My only problem is that it's not clear if Con Clancy knew all along, or found out later on.
    Natasha Richardson is so beautiful and hilarious playing this character. Joan Plowright is always fantastic and I was very pleasantly surprised by Mia Farrow. She is well cast here.
    A very enjoyable movie. Let's hope Ireland has changed a bit.