May 30, 1994 12:00 PM

Mia Farrow, Joan Plowright, Natasha Richardson, Adrian Dunbar

This movie, set in the Emerald Isle in the 1920s, is one small part crock of gold, one large part crock. Plowright, in what is essentially a reprise of her Enchanted April role, rules a roost of residences inhabited almost exclusively by wealthy, tongue-wagging widow ladies. The two exceptions are Plowright’s quite dim-witted son (Adrian Dunbar) and her special pet (Farrow), an impoverished spinster who cultivates roses and the attentions of the local dentist (Jim Broadbent). Life trots along quite uneventfully in the mythical village of Kilshannon Peak. There are meetings of the ladies’ club and regular trips to the cemetery so the women can visit their departed husbands. “Enough, ladies,” Plowright chides her charges, ending one such visit. “We don’t want them getling spoiled.” Things get decidedly more interesting when into the garden of widows’ weeds comes a wealthy English war widow (Richardson, whose supposed time in the States explains her Yankee accent), all flirtatious smiles and chiffon scarves. While Plowright is immediately enchanted and Dunbar utterly smitten, Farrow is far less charmed by the glamorous newcomer. In fact, she takes an instant dislike to Richardson. After a few attempts at placating Farrow, Richardson returns the animus tit for tat—both women engaging in skirmishes (destroying and defacing each other’s property) that soon threaten to lead to foul play.

The screenplay by the often dazzling playwright Hugh Leonard has some moments of impishness, but it’s a pretty slight piece of goods—best suited for a slow night on Masterpiece Theatre. What shines here are utterly delectable performances by Plowright, Farrow and Richardson. (PG)

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