Evelyn (December 13/02)
Evelyn is based on a true story set in 1950s Ireland, and though it's got some good performances, the whole thing's just too schmaltzy to take seriously.
Pierce Brosnan stars as Desmond Doyle, an unemployed painter/musician whose just been abandoned by his wife - leaving him to care for their three children. Though he initially believes he can care for the kids on his own, he eventually realizes he's going to need some help. So, he calls upon a group of nuns to help him around the house, but their presence is only temporary. Once the government gets wind of the situation, they order the children removed from the house and sent to boarding schools (a nice way of saying orphanages). As Doyle soon learns, extricating the kids from the system isn't going to be as easy as he thought, so he pleads with his attorney (Stephen Rea) to help him. Armed with help from an American lawyer (Aidan Quinn) and a retired legal wiz (Alan Bates), the four set out to change the laws of Ireland.
Though the film runs only 90 minutes (give or take), it does feel a little on the long side. Perhaps this true-life story just wasn't enough to sustain a feature length motion picture, but whatever the reason, the movie does have its share of dull spots. More than that, though, the film wants so desperately to be a crowd-pleaser, that it often resorts to cheesy and incredibly over-the-top moments to get its point across. Evelyn (Doyle's daughter, played by Sophie Vavasseur) is told that rays from the sun are actually dead people reaching down to touch people, so when it comes time for little Evelyn to testify and she's initially apprehensive, a group of rays hit her hands and she's sure it's her dead grandfather (which, of course, gives her the courage to go on). While I was merely rolling my eyes during that sequence, someone at the screening I attended actually laughed - a reaction I appreciated. Heavy-handed moments like that almost ruin the film, but luckily, there aren't that many of them.
It's almost as if director Bruce Beresford doesn't have enough confidence in the audience to understand what's going on. Case in point: When Doyle is convincing Quinn's character to help, he's talking about his children and what if it was your family, and all the while, Beresford zooms in slowly on Quinn's face - the idea being that we can see the gears of acceptance moving about in Quinn's head. It's silly directorial choices like that that undermine the very real (and very compelling) nature of the true story. Still, Brosnan's performance does keep the film afloat throughout. Doyle is a far cry from Bond, and Brosnan's completely believable as this lovable lout.
Evelyn probably would've worked better had it been an hour-long installment of Masterpiece Theater, but as it is, it'll probably appeal to less discriminating viewers looking for entertainment for the whole family.