Being an oddball movie with its own odd and quirky charm, "An Everlasting Piece" may well work as counterprogramming against the holiday blockbusters. But expectations can't be too high given the essential thinness of the material. It opens Christmas Day for a limited release.
Let's start with that punning title. While politicians continue, even now, to search for an everlasting peace in Northern Ireland, another piece plays a vital role in a land where tension and stress cause men's hair to fall out. Yes, baldness is rampant there.
So in the 1980s, fellow barbers Colm (McEvoy), a Catholic, and George (Brian O'Byrne), a Protestant and would-be poet, decide to corner the toupee market. Then they discover that a rival hairpiece company, Toupee or Not Toupee, is selling rugs like crazy.
Lost one night on a lonely country road, the two run into an Irish Republican Army patrol. Through a complicated series of circumstances, Colm winds up with an order of 30 wigs from the IRA. This creates a crisis of conscience because, as his disgusted girlfriend Bronagh (Anna Friel) points out, his partner would never approve of such a sale.
McEvoy bases his script on the memories of his dad, who was a barber and a hairpiece salesman in Northern Ireland before moving to New York. Consequently, the comic episodes have the ring of truth, though some tales are either too true to work as fiction or are exaggerated. And sometimes the urge to introduce whimsy into the sectarian conflict puts too great a strain on the story. But the film is too good-natured to make this a serious objection.
More problematic is Scottish actor-comic Billy Connolly. He plays the former monopoly holder of the toupee market in Northern Ireland who lost that monopoly when he went mad. He roams the streets and rants to no one in particular, a character mostly extraneous to the film's dramatic action.
"An Everlasting Piece" is a slight film, more a collection of amusing anecdotes played for all their worth than a dramatically coherent film. The acting contains great energy, which helps sustain the film during passages that feel padded.
Levinson's production team keeps the scale of the film appropriately small. Perhaps the comic, nonpolitical point of view would only have been possible for a film crew consisting largely of outsiders. But otherwise, the sense of time and place in these bleak Belfast locations is so dead-on that you might believe the movie to be the work of local filmmakers.
AN EVERLASTING PIECE
DreamWorks and Columbia Pictures present
a Bayahibe Films production in association with
Baltimore/Spring Creek Pictures
Credits: Producers: Barry Levinson, Paul Weinstein, Mark Johnson, Louis DiGiamo, Jerome O'Connor; Director: Barry Levinson; Screenwriter: Barry McEvoy; Executive producer: Patrick McCormick; Director of photography: Seamus Deasy; Production designer: Nathan Crowley; Music: Hans Zimmer; Costume designer: Joan Bergin; Editor: Stu Linder. Cast: Colm: Barry McEvoy; George: Brian F. O'Byrne; Bronagh: Anna Friel; Scapler: Billy Connolly; IRA man: Colum Convey. MPAA rating: R. Running time -- 103 minutes. Color/stereo.