Despite the controversy over the book, people in Frank McCourt‘s hometown of Limerick turn out in huge numbers to attend the sold-out film premiere of Angela’s Ashes on January 12, 2000. A simultaneous premiere takes place in Dublin.
The 1999 drama film is based on McCourt’s memoir Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir, published in 1996. An international co-production between the United States, the United Kingdom, and Ireland, it is co-written and directed by Alan Parker, and stars Emily Watson, Robert Carlyle, Joe Breen, Ciaran Owens, and Michael Legge, the latter three playing the young, middle aged, and older Frank McCourt, respectively.
Although set in Limerick, many street scenes are filmed in Cork. For example, the “fleas in the mattress” scene is filmed at Farren Street, Blackpool, and other scenes are shot at Roche’s Buildings, Lower John Street and Barrack Street.
With an estimated $25 million budget, the film grosses only $13,042,112 in the United States, making it a box-office bomb.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 52%, based on reviews from 87 critics, with an average rating of 5.8/10. The site’s consensus states: “In spite of its attempts to accurately record Frank McCourt’s memoirs, the onscreen adaptation fails to capture any of the drama or humor of his life.” On Metacritic, the film has a score of 54 out of 100, based on reviews from 32 critics, indicating “mixed or average reviews.”
Michael Legge is praised for his portrayal of the adolescent Frank. In particular, he is said to excel in his role as an innocent teenager growing up with typical coming of age rites involving sexuality, maturity and peer pressure in a Catholic Irish setting.
Despite the low approval ratings with the critics, the film captures several awards: Best Picture and Best Costume Design at the Irish Film & Television Awards, Best Director at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival, Best Original Score from the Las Vegas Film Critics Society, and Best Actress (Emily Watson) from the London Film Critics’ Circle.
(Pictured: Film poster for Angela’s Ashes, © Paramount Pictures)