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'Everlasting Piece'

'Everlasting Piece' takes snips at the business of hair

Friday, February 02, 2001

By Barbara Vancheri, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Director Barry Levinson's "An Everlasting Piece" is a wee slip of an Irish comedy about hairpiece hawkers ... and the troubles in Northern Ireland. Yes, those Troubles.

'Everlasting Piece'

RATING: R for language, very brief nudity.

STARRING: Barry McEvoy, Brian F. O'Byrne

DIRECTOR: Barry Levinson




Levinson, who made a career out of movies set in his native Baltimore, is far from home in every respect. Writer-star Barry McEvoy sets the story in Belfast "sometime during the 1980s" and filters the age-old tension through a business partnership between a Catholic barber named Colm (McEvoy) and a Protestant one named George (Brian F. O'Byrne).

Colm has a resourceful and fearless girlfriend (Anna Friel) and a kooky Irish clan -- his mother, for instance, wears bikini briefs on her head while smoking so the nicotine won't stain her hair. She and another family member hear that Colm's 17-year-old brother is passed out in the rain and they lug him inside and strip off his clothes, only to later learn they've undressed and sized up a total stranger.

So the quirky matriarch does what any movie mom would do: She orders the family to clothe the anonymous stranger and deposit him back in the rain. By comparison, we know little about George except he's a poet at heart who has become emboldened by his new coworker.

The men cut hair in a mental hospital, the very same hospital housing a patient nicknamed "The Scalper" (Billy Connolly, in what amounts to a cameo). The Scalper had the only toupee company in Northern Ireland but one day he acquired his nickname, taking an unspecified sharp object to four customers' heads. Colm and George hatch a plan to ask the Scalper for his customer list and, after toying with them, he hands it over.

They dub themselves "The Piece People" and begin selling toupees -- only to discover that they don't have a monopoly. There are a couple of other fellows who are selling wigs, too, and they end up in a competition for the territory.

It's not all Tony Curtis Deluxe models, though. The barbers inadvertently get tangled up with the IRA, which leads to the serious nougat of the movie. While reminders of the tension are everywhere, from the peace wall to the street patrols and traffic checkpoints, the movie changes lanes. And it feels like an abrupt swerve.

"Everlasting Piece," inspired partly by McEvoy's dad who was both a barber and toupee salesman, has a couple of sly moments but little that is laugh-aloud hilarious. Connolly is underused but, more importantly, the IRA seems soft-pedaled, even for a comedy about toupee salesmen. But by softening the IRA, McEvoy robs the ending of its intended power. And lest we forget that we once lived in a divided country, one scene takes place in a Dixieland chicken restaurant.

Although there are worse things you could say about a movie, "Everlasting Piece" is a bit too ambitious for its own good.

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