New Movie "Agnes Browne"
featuring Tom Jones
USA, 91 min
France 11/08/1999 Spain 29/10/1999 USA
(NY and LA)
03/12/1999 Belgium 08/12/1999 Netherlands 20/01/2000 USA 03/03/2000
Tom stands behind Agnes,
holding her youngest in his arms.
Agnes Browne, directed by and starring Anjelica Huston, and featuring Tom Jones, opened in New York and Los Angeles on December 3, 1999 for a one-week run to satisfy requirements for Academy Award consideration. The film will have its general release in March 2000. The early reviews were not very inspiring, and there was not much made of Tom's appearance, which is limited to the last few minutes of the film. So I was pleasantly surprised by the movie, which I thought was better than its reviews, and extremely pleased to see how much attention Tom actually gets.
Agnes Browne is a very sympathetic character, struggling to raise and provide for seven children, after the death of her husband. Most of this comedy-drama is devoted to Agnes "finding herself", and learning to get by on her own. We watch the action unfold in a series of vignettes. It's a poor, difficult life, made more complicated by the presence of a smarmy loan shark, and the death of her best friend. But Agnes has not lost her spirit, nor her ability to dream, no matter how impossible the realization may seem. Amidst the harsh realities of her day-to-day existence, her fondest fantasy is to one day go to a Tom Jones concert. Throughout the film, references are made to Tom, and we discover in steps the strength of Agnes' attraction to him and what he represents to her. The first mention of Tom comes about 15 minutes into the film, when Agnes sees a concert poster, with a picture of Tom, on a telephone pole. She stares at it while daydreaming, and a line from "She's A Lady" drifts through her mind. About 5 minutes later Agnes is cooking in her kitchen and "Delilah" is playing on the radio. Even her children know Tom, and one of the little girls mentions him in a conversation. When Agnes next sees the concert poster, there's a banner across it reading "Sold Out". Agnes thinks she has lost her opportunity, but really could not have afforded a ticket anyway. At night, after the children are asleep, she dons a negligee, puts a Tom Jones album on the record player, and dances with a broom to "Fall In Love". In the background, the album cover and a poster of Tom on the wall are visible. Although Agnes has said she never wants a man in her life again, she clearly still yearns for the romance and promise that Tom and his music offer. When she is finally persuaded to accept a date from a suitor, her friend smiles at her knowingly and sings a line from "It's Not Unusual". As Agnes' friends help her primp for her date, they play "It's Not Unusual" on the record player. In another kitchen scene, we hear a news item on the radio about "crowds at the Shelbourne hotel.....", and we know without hearing Tom's name that he is the reason.
Agnes' children wind up at the very same hotel, trying to collect on their deceased dad's pension (he used to work there), as Agnes staunchly holds off the loan shark, who has come to strip her home of all its furniture. The union chief at the hotel refuses to turn the money over to children, so they grab it and make a mad dash through the hotel, escaping their pursuers by going up the elevator. As the elevator doors open on an upper floor, Tom and an aide are waiting to get on. Tom says something like, "Well what do we have here?" He is wearing a light-brown jacket and blue shirt, with blue print tie. The children explain their tale of woe to Tom as the elevator descends, but when the elevator doors open in the lobby, Tom is mobbed by a crowd and is separated from the children. The union boss catches them, and all may be lost. Meanwhile, Agnes is losing her battle at home to keep the loan shark at bay. There's a loud knock on the door, and she grabs a hammer. But when she yanks the door open and raises the hammer to strike, it's Tom standing there with all her children! He says with alarm, "Jesus, Mark said you were a fan!" Tom has apparently rescued her children from the clutches of the union boss, and managed to bring them home with the pension money. As Agnes exits her home to confront the loan shark with the money, Tom stands behind her, holding her youngest in his arms. Agnes finally gets her dream, and attends the concert. Tom, wearing a black suit with black satin ribbon, and a royal blue ruffled shirt, open at the neck with his cross showing, dedicates his next song to Agnes, telling her to never stop dreaming. Then he sings "She's A Lady". The audience is cheering, and the film ends.
The movie takes place in 1967, and therefore, some of the songs that are used are incorrectly dated ("Delilah" came out in 1968, "She's A Lady" in 1971). I was relieved to see that no great effort was made to make Tom appear 30 years younger. He looks his age, the only concession to the era being slightly longer sideburns and the style of ruffled shirt. Most of the performances in this very enjoyable film were excellent, a credit to Anjelica's directing. And for those of us who love Tom, his appearance is, of course, electrifying.
The soundtrack for the movie will be from Decca records, but is not out yet, and it is not clear if it will be issued before the general release of the movie in the Spring.
- Rose NY, New York, USA -