An Everlasting Piece

Directed (improbably enough) by Barry Levinson, this bit of whimsy is a pub yarn spun out to feature length, whose underlying message about Ireland's ongoing Troubles amounts to little more than "Why can't we all just get along?" And on those modest terms, it's adorable. Belfast, the early '80s: Two barbers, Catholic Colm (Barry McEvoy)...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Directed (improbably enough) by Barry Levinson, this bit of whimsy is a pub

yarn spun out to feature length, whose underlying message about Ireland's

ongoing Troubles amounts to little more than "Why can't we all just get

along?" And on those modest terms, it's adorable. Belfast, the early '80s: Two

barbers, Catholic Colm (Barry McEvoy) and Protestant George (Brian F. O'Byrne)

— who fancies himself a poet — meet while cutting hair at the

Ballybacky lunatic asylum. Inspired by an inmate — a toupee salesman who

went barking mad, earned himself the nickname "The Scalper" (Billy Connolly),

and left Belfast's bald men without a supplier of hairpieces — they cook

up a plan to acquire the Scalper's customer list and start selling wigs

themselves. That they're not put off by the plan's macabre origins speaks

volumes about their dogged optimism. The lads name their fledgling company

"The Piece People" and start plying their trade with no business plan and less

business sense, save that contributed by Colm's no-nonsense girlfriend,

Bronagh (Anna Friel). Then, just as the boys think they're getting a feel for the rug business (even though Colm pronounces "hairpiece" so it sounds like

"herpes"), they discover they have competition, an ambitious outfit called

Toupee or Not Toupee. Told by their mutual supplier that the company showing

the biggest sales figures by Christmas will get exclusive distribution rights

in Belfast, the rivals embark on a cutthroat race to clothe the city's naked

heads. It's up to the cast to bring such slight shenanigans to life.

Fortunately they are, to a man and woman, more than up to the challenge of

wringing apparently effortless chuckles from the likes of a middle-aged

housewife wearing underpants on her head while she puffs on a cigarette

(otherwise, the smoke stains her hair) and a wig-mauling rottweiler. God love

them for their silver-tongued aplomb.

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