Very Annie Mary

Very Annie Mary is the latest feel-good quirky comedy to come from across the pond. Those blokes are attempting to milk The Full Monty as far as they can. With very few exceptions, these movies are falling under the law of diminishing returns; each additional one is yielding less and less entertainment. Very Annie Mary has all the quirkiness and odd characters required, but none of the charm and wit of its peers. It's hard to see what writer/director Sara Sugarman (Mad Cows, Anthakitis) is trying to accomplish, since this movie is all over the place. At its core is Annie Mary (Rachel Griffiths, Blow, Blow Dry), an annoying protagonist.

Annie Mary is thirty-three, but has the mind of an adolescent. Sugarman never really explains why this is, and in the end, nobody cares. She dresses like a kid, is clumsy, and is probably missing a large chunk of something upstairs. She helps her father Jack (Jonathan Pryce, The Affair of the Necklace, Bride of the Wind), the local baker and amateur opera singer. During his deliveries, Jack dons a rubber Pavarotti mask and sings arias piped out on his loudspeakers. He is abusive towards his daughter, treating her more like a slave than a family member. He forces her to cook, clean, and sleep on his feet when he is cold. Nevertheless, Annie Mary does enjoy accompanying her father on the piano.

When Jack has a stroke, things change drastically. Annie Mary begins to develop a sense of independence, and she likes it. She ponders moving out, but all her money goes towards paying the bills. She takes over the baking, with disastrous results. The one thing she seems unwilling to do is to follow her dream of singing. When she was a child, she had a beautiful voice. She has a scholarship to study in Italy, but had to stay and help Jack in the bakery once her father died. She has not sung ever since. Her bed-ridden friend Bethan (Joanna Page, From Hell, Miss Julie) wants her to sing. Bethan has cancer, and Annie Mary and everybody else in the town is raising money to send her to Disneyland.

Sugarman's main problem is failing to develop a cohesive story. Or, more likely failing to weave all the parts of Annie Mary's life together. Is this film about Annie Mary and Jack? Or Annie Mary and freedom? Or Annie Mary and Bethan? Or Annie Mary and her singing? These stories do interweave to a degree, but mostly get in the way of each other. The singing story, which is probably the most important and poignant one, appears mid-way through the film, then disappears for a while, then comes on strong. Much of this is also due to the Annie Mary character. She does not come off as endearing or cute, just inept. Griffiths' performance is decent, but consists mostly of running oddly and bumping into things. After some strong performances, Griffiths' just seems to be in a state of decline in her film career.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
1 hour, 44 minutes, English, but should have subtitles, Not Rated but contains some language, a PG-13 or R.

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