Everlasting Piece, An [2000]

It's hard to believe that a movie about two hairpiece salesmen in war-torn Northern Ireland--a comedy, no less--could work at all, but An Everlasting Piece does work, though perhaps not in the way one would expect. Colm (Barry McEvoy, who also wrote the screenplay) is a new barber at a mental institution and bonds with his fellow barber George (Brian F. O'Byrne) even though Colm is Catholic and George is Protestant. A new patient arrives, who turns out to have been the owner of the only wig company in all of Northern Ireland. Figuring that having a monopoly means easy money, Colm and George convince the new patient to give them his client list, and they're off on a series of rambling comic adventures, aided by Colm's girlfriend Bronagh (Anna Friel, A Midsummer Night's Dream). But when a wig is found at the site of an act of IRA sabotage, the salesmen's lives get suddenly complicated. What makes An Everlasting Piece work is not that it ignores the Irish conflict, but that it pays close attention to it; in fact, the tension of civil strife is a crucial element of the movie's humor, allowing it to dip into a more serious mood without becoming preachy or pretentious. The actors are uniformly excellent; Friel is particularly charming. A comedy about wigs sounds like goofy slapstick; An Everlasting Piece is actually thoughtful and richly human. Directed by Barry Levinson (Diner, Rain Man, Wag the Dog). --Bret Fetzer

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