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Very Annie Mary took me by shock and surprise.
Rachel Griffiths gives her finest performance and though the film is 3 years old, she hasn't as yet done anything quite as satisfying as her brilliant turn as Annie.
33 year old, Annie comes off as mildly retarded, and, in the truest sense of the word, she is, since life pretty well ended at 15. That's when Annie Mary, who wanted nothing more than to be an opera singer, won a vocal competition judged by Pavarotti who told her she would have a marvelous career, and she's given a grant to study in Milan.
That same week, her mother took ill, died, and Annie was forced to give up her dreams to stay and take her mother's place in the home. Her father accomplishes his means by humiliating Annie into believing she isn't special, she isn't, in fact, anything at all.
As Dad, Pugh, Jonathan Pryce is terrific as. Selfish and cold hearted almost two decades after he's shattered her dreams, the man still berates his daughter calling her talentless, useless, stupid, slovenly and cuts her to her heart laughing at her "what man would ever have you?" He forces her to dress in his own dead mother's shapeless, matronly as he constantly tells Annie how beautiful her mother was.
The film opens with Pryce singing Puccini's Nessun Dorma from a mounted speaker system atop his bakery delivery truck as he drives through the Welsh countryside. As the camera pulls in, we see Pugh "The Voice of the Valley" in a rubber Pavarotti mask and wearing an Pavarotti sized tuxedo. Beautiful and hilarious all at once.
While not slapstick Griffiths' Annie Mary is prone to extreme clumsiness often moving (especially when running) like an excited 5 year old, all stiff arms and awkwardness. She's adorable. Clumsiness leads to minor accidents, falls down stairs, running into doors and other objects each moment is hilarious yet does something to endear this ugly duckling even more to us.
When Dad suffers a stroke, Annie Mary is forced to take care of the household with riotous and disastrous results.
The heart of the film centers around Annie's relationship the village and her best friend, Bethan, a bedridden teenager. The village wish for Bethan is to send her to Disneyland. Bethan's only wish is to hear Annie sing. Through an unlikely series of events(including a talent competition, a bouncing Pavarotti, the Village People and the Welsh Grand National Horserace and the entire village turning against Annie) Bethan and the village get to hear Annie Mary find her voice again. It is a magical moment blending pathos, forgiveness, hope, heartbreak and Puccini, as Annie Mary finds not only her voice, but the means to carry on.
Very Annie Mary is easily one of the most joyous DVD discoveries I've made.
Very Annie-Mary (M), now showing at The Regent Theatre in Te Awamutu, is not only packed with laughs but takes the audience on a roller coaster ride of human emotions. Inspiring feelings of amusement, hope and joy the film also has moments of utter clarity, deepest despair and complete regret - it's guaranteed to break your heart before restoring your faith in humanity. Thirty-year-old Annie-Mary, played by Six Foot Under star Rachel Griffiths, has never left her Ogw home in the Welsh valleys and is under the thumb of her father. The dizzy girl, who won a prestigious Welsh singing competition in her teens, still dresses as though she were 16, secretly smokes and cannot cook quite an irony as she works for her father. She secretly dreams of leaving home and setting up with her best friend, the terminally ill Bethan Bevan (Joanna Page), who is half her age, as well as marrying Colin Thomas (Rhys Miles Thomas), a candidate for the Baptist ministry and the only man in the valley under 60. When her music-loving father Jack Pugh (Jonathan Pryce) suffers a stroke during a charity recital Annie-Mary is forced to grow up and take on some responsibility the only problem is she has no idea about life in the real world, keeping her money in a piggy bank. She's so clumsy that she walks into doors. The film delivers a believable portrayal of life in a Welsh village, something a frequent visitor to Wales like me is qualified to say. Hornblower star Ioan Gruffudd goes back to his Welsh roots to make an appearance as gay confectioner Hob while former Hi-de-hi star Ruth Maddoc plays Pugh's love interest, Mrs Ifans. While the film contains some sex scenes, which are far from graphic, there is also a smattering of offensive language. This aside, Very Annie-Mary is one of those films that sees you leaving the cinema riding on a cloud. The music is just great too.
I enjoyed every minute of this film, and I think that's the great thing
about it; it's consistently entertaining. It's got funny moments, touching
moments, sad moments, and a downright beautiful finale that left me feeling
It's not a blockbuster, it doesn't have car chases or explosions or explore the depths of the human psyche, but it's very enjoyable in a down-to-earth sort of way.
The characters really draw you in and are excellently portrayed by the cast, with unintrusive directing that lets the superb script do the work. I was surprised at how low this film had scored, and recommend that anyone who roots for the underdog or has ever wanted to just say 'Nuts to the lot of you, I'm doing what *I* want' will enjoy Very Annie Mary. Go on, give it a try. You might like it...
I was blown away by the range of emotion and expression shown by Rachel Griffiths in the movie, Very Annie Marie. I was not particularly impressed with her acting in the HBO series, Six Feet Under, but now I realize she is unable to use her talents to the full extent that she did in Very Annie Marie. I have a new sense of respect for her. In this movie, I found her to be a brilliant actress who is absolutely captivating and her delivery and comic timing are superb. Knowing that she is a native of Australia, I was completely convinced by her portrayal of a Welsh woman. This movie reminds me of the sweet humor and warmth of the movie, Calendar Girls, in that it portrays colorful characters who are believable and not just Hollywood stereotypes. Rachel is a bright spark that brings life and a sense of joy to the movie. I would like to know if she was actually singing the aria. If not, I was completely convinced that she was. I have not previously written a review but was so impressed with Rachel's performance that I had to this time.
Set in a small Welsh village, this film is a gentle expose of small-town politics. Slowly, Annie Mary escapes from the tyranny of her father to make a life for herself. There are some moments of comic genius, superbly handled by Rachel Griffiths who somehow always manages to make the character of Annie-Mary credible and touching. The gay sweet shop owners and the pop group 'Hinge, Minge, Twinge and Bracket' are delightful diversions, while the terminally ill Bethan Bevan provides pathos as well as resolution for the character of Annie-Mary. A wonderful, eccentric, film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The life of Annie Mary changes completely after the death of her
mother. Annie Mary, who had a beautiful voice, suddenly stopped trying
to sing opera. Her life in the small Welsh town is boring, to say the
least. To make matters worse, her best friend, Bethan Bevan, is struck
by cancer. Annie Mary, who is a loyal friend, wants to help her sick
friend go to Disneyland.
Annie Mary's father, Jack, has a bakery in the town. We see him as he makes his deliveries in a Luciano Pavarotti's mask and singing in his beautiful tenor opera arias that are much admired by the people of the area. When he suffers a stroke, Annie Mary's life goes into a tail spin. As a caretaker, Annie Mary is useless. As much as she tries to make a go at being a baker, she never makes it work. In desperation she turns to Mrs. Madoc, her father's girlfriend, to buy her out.
As a way to help Bethan, Annie Mary and a few of the town's women, she decides to enter a contest in Cardiff. They have prepared to do a number of the Village People, "Y.M.C.A.", but they are horrified when they arrive at the hall where the competition is going to be held, and watch a group of men doing exactly their number, much better. The women decide to change their act into a sort of "Three Tenors" aria in which Annie Mary, wearing an inflated rubber suit, floats into the audience. Needless to say, they win, but emboldened by the turn of events in her life, she gambles all the money into a horse race and loses it.
Annie Mary becomes Ogw's most hated person. What's more the trip to Disneyland is too late for Bethan, who suffers a relapse. It's at this point that Annie Mary finds her voice again and she gives her friend a rendition of Puccini's aria "O mio bambino caro" in a shaky voice that gets better as the scene changes to another location.
Sara Sugarman, the writer and director of this screwball comedy was lucky in casting one of the most talented actresses working in films these days: Rachel Griffiths. Ms. Sugarman gets a tremendous performance out of Ms. Griffiths, who shows her range in a role she was born to play. Jonathan Pryce is also excellent as the distant father who can't see eye to eye with his daughter.
Although sometimes the accents get a bit hard to follow, the luminous presence of Ms. Griffiths and the sure direction of Ms. Sugarman make us overlook that minor problem and enjoy the comedy.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
VERY ANNIE MARY is a quirky little film written and directed by Sara
Sugarman that manages to delve into myriad fantasies and manners and
crushed dreams and come out with a thoroughly tender, warm hearted and
funny result. There are more interesting characters of all types in
this story, each of whom could be expanded into a film all their own.
After a rollicking opening sequence of a bakery delivery van topped with speakers blasting Puccini's 'Nessun dorma' over lovely countryside of Wales - the driver is the town baker Jack Pugh (Jonathan Pryce) who wears a rubber mask and bloated suit that mimic Pavarotti singing along with a recording - we meet the town folk. Jack's daughter Annie Mary (Rachel Griffiths) is in her 30s, stuck as a surrogate wife and slave to her father and his bakery business. She seems loopy and perhaps retarded (socially indeed, if not a bit mentally) and has borne the brunt of her father's scorn since her mother died when she was fifteen, just when Annie had won a singing competition judged by Pavarotti. The loss of her mother places her in the role of 'wife' to the dastardly John who daily convinces her she is a nothing while he pursues his avocation of singing for the townsfolk as the Voice of the Valley. Annie's only remnant of her past survives in her teaching voice lessons to such odd folk as Hob (Ioan Gruffudd) and Nob (Matthew Rhys), gay friends of hers with delusions of Hollywood. Her closest friend is teenage Bethan (Joanna Page) who is ill.
Annie Mary spies a house on the market, desperately wants to get out from under her father's control to make a life of her own, and shares this with Bethan. During one of his concerts John collapses with a stroke and it appears Annie's dreams of independence are crushed. The townsfolk decide they want to befriend Bethan and monies are gathered to send Bethan on her 'dream' - a trip to Disneyland. In a hilarious talent show meant to raise funds for the Disneyland trip Annie and her friends win the contest and the money meant for Bethan's trip is entrusted to Annie. Annie again stumbles and squanders the funds on her own dreams by buying sensual satisfaction. Broken by her own mistake, Annie confesses to Bethan and Bethan replies that her only dream before dying is to hear Annie sing. And sing Annie does, in probably the most touching performance of Puccini's 'O mio bambino caro'. At last Annie Mary has regained her self-respect and has a glimpse of her own life. The closing multiple resolutions of the film are full of surprises of the best kind.
Every character in this delightful film is well acted, but there are moments by some, like the very weird, besotted minister (Kenneth Griffith), that certainly deserve awards for brilliance. VERY ANNIE MARY is a rich, multilayered, magical film with outstanding performances by Rachel Griffiths and Jonathan Pryce. The only fault one might find is that much of the dialogue is indecipherable due to the Welsh accents that challenge the ear! Highly recommended. Grady Harp
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Right first things first, one of the other reviews critisizes Jonathan
Pryce's Welsh accent, I take offence at this especially since Jonathan
Next thing this review contains some ******SEMI-SPOILERS******
This movie is set in a fictional Welsh village, where a daughter Annie Mary lives with her domeniering father, she is a typical "klutz", but with a heart of gold. Annie once won an Eisteddfod but has "lost" her voice. Her best friend is terminally ill, and she is trying to find herself. I won't spoil it by relating specific sections but watch out for the cafe owners, the minister and his sandwiches and the Contest.
This is a VERY funny and moving film, that had me crying at different points for different reasons, laughter and sadness. It really catches the Welshness of my country. There have been other good movies set in Wales but none as good as this. I enjoyed "The Englshman who went up a hill and came down a mountain" but that was a stylised Hollywood version of Wales. This is the way Welsh people are.
Hire this movie, You'll enjoy it, and if you don't then you didn't get it. So watch it again until you do!
The cast were brilliant, although seeing one of the character's who own the Station Cafe may cause a few ladies to cry into their hankies as you see one of the new generation of hearthrobs Ioan Gryffydd playing a .... well basically a "queen" and very good at it he is too. Special mention after my introduction should go to the leading lady Rachel Griffiths as this actress an Australian has a brilliant Welsh accent.
I knew the film was going to be funny after watching the trailer, but now that I have seen it I can honestly say it is better than I had expected. Even Jonathan Pryce's dodgey welsh accent can not hinder the enjoyment of this movie. Many laughs, a few tear-jerking moments, but all in all a really worthwile movie.
When you go see this film, please sit back and relax. This is a fable, a story where, yes, eccentric characters are overdramatized, but anyone that's been to Wales will see just that, the people are very funny. Rachel Griffiths is excellent, as is Jonathan Pryce, as her bullying Welsh father. This is not a US blockbuster, but then again, it wasn't supposed to be. The story has heart, and the one scene where Rachel's character (Annie-Mary) goes up in a balloon in a dance hall was very funny. The accents are hard for folks that don't understand any language other than American-English, but when you see a Liverpool film, a Scottish film, do you expect to understand anything other than the loveable laughable characters? View, sit back, relax..and enjoy the experience of "something different".
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