Very Annie-mary

on March 29, 2002 by Ed Scheid
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   “Very Annie-Mary” is a frustrating combination of strained humor and heavy-handed sentimentality. Annie-Mary (Rachel Griffiths) is the unhappy daughter of the popular baker (Jonathan Pryce) in a Welsh village. She is dominated and belittled by her father, whose idiosyncrasies include wearing a Pavarotti mask while playing opera recordings as he drives his delivery truck.

   Years before, Annie-Mary won a prestigious music competition but gave up the scholarship when her mother died and has not sung since. Annie-Mary confides her hopes for the future to Bethan (Joanna Page), a teenager confined by illness to her bed.

   The film, written and directed by Sara Sugarman, wastes the considerable talent of Griffiths. Annie-Mary is so immature and emotionally stunted that she quickly becomes annoying. Pryce, who won acclaim in the stage musical “Miss Saigon,” fares better. Singing at the local church, and even when confined to a wheelchair after his character suffers a stroke, he remains a strong presence. Though debilitated by illness, the father remains tyrannical. Unfortunately for the film, the screenplay concentrates on Annie-Mary and her neighbors as she clumsily attempts to gain some independence. Most of the scenes without Pryce are relentlessly and irritatingly cute.

   The mayor's annual charity tries to raise the cost of sending Annie-Mary's sick friend Bethan to Disneyland. Hoping to win prize money for the fund, Annie-Mary joins a group of female villagers of diverse ages in entering a talent contest by impersonating the Village People. Reflecting this film's lack of originality, in one scene young boys imitate the striptease from “The Full Monty,” while “Annie-Mary” repeatedly fails to duplicate the enjoyment of that popular film. The mood abruptly shifts for a contrived and maudlin conclusion.    Starring Rachel Griffiths, Jonathan Pryce and Ioan Gruffudd. Directed and written by Sara Sugarman. Produced by Graham Broadbent and Damian Jones. An Empire release. Comedy/Drama. Unrated. Running time: 104 min.

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