Angela’s Ashes (1999): Alan Parker’s Version of Frank McCourt Memoir Starring Emily Watson

In a radical change of gears, director Alan Parker (who last made the musical “Evita”) went to Ireland to film Frank McCourt’s touching best-selling memoir about his poor family, and being abused by an alcoholic father (“The Full Monty” Robert Carlyle).

Oscar-nominated Emily Watson (“Breaking the Waves”) plays the long-suffering mother, immobilized by depression but doing her best to give their kids good education.  Since Irish economy is booming at present and no dreary village could be found, Parker and his crew had to construct a grimy street in the town of Limerick as authentic replica to McCourt’s childhood.

Unfortunately, “Angela’s Ashes” is a disappointing film on many levels.  Though meticulous in detail and unsentimental in tone, the film fails to convey on screen McCourt’s witty, wry, self-deprecating words on page.

Tedious and overly long, the film is replete with grim imagery of dying babies, wet and dirty streets, bug-infested apartments, and ragged children starving for food.

But the characterizations are weak and the voice over narration makes the tale even less engaging.

You can’t blame the talented actors, though.  Joe Breen plays McCourt as a child, Ciaran Owens as an adolescent, and Michael Legge as a teenager.

Oscar Nominations: 1

Score: John Williams

Oscar Awards: None

Cast

Angela McCourt (Emily Watson)

Malachy McCourt (Robert Carlyle)

Young Frank (Joe Breen)

Middle Frank (Ciaran Owens)

Older Frank (Michael Legge)

Grandma Sheehan 9Ronnie Masterson)

Aunt Aggie (Pauline McLynn)

Uncle Pa Keating (Liam Carney)

Uncle Pat (Eanna MacLiam)

Narrator: Andrew Bennett

 

Crew

Produced by David Brown, Scott Rudin, and Alan parker

Directed by Alan Parker

Screenplay: Laura Jones and Alan Parker, based on the book “Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir” by Frank McCourt

Camera: Michael Seresin

Editor: Gerry Hambling

Production design: Geoffrey Kirkland

Art design: Jonathan McKinstry

Costume: Consalata Boyle