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Ash Wednesday

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Ash Wednesday (1973)

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Additional Information
Barbara Sawyer and her beauticians.

How far would you go to save your face? Barbara Sawyer went all the way!

Surgery took years off her face. But can it save her marriage?

A relationship between two brothers literally becomes a matter of life and death in this drama from writer, director and actor Edward Burns. Francis Sullivan (Burns) was a street-wise thug with ties to the Irish mob until his younger brother Sean (Elijah Wood) was killed on Ash Wednesday in 1980 while trying to protect Francis from gangsters who were out to kill him. Three years later, Francis is a law-abiding man who is trying to stay on the straight and narrow and keep his eye on Grace (Rosario Dawson), Sean's widow. However, rumors have begun to circulate that Sean's death was just a ruse fabricated by Francis and a sympathetic priest, Father Mahoney (James Handy), to get mobster Moran (Oliver Platt) off Sean's back. Some people have spotted someone who looks a lot like Sean wandering around the neighborhood, and Moran, who doesn't forget a grudge, begins scouring the neighborhood in search of Sean, while Francis has worries of his own about Sean, since his relationship with Grace has started to move beyond simple family friendship.

The film's critical reception was reasonably favorable, particularly for Taylor who was nominated for a Golden Globe. Rex Reed's review in The New York Observer amounted to a love letter to Taylor: "She's subtle, sensitive, glowing with freshness and beauty, fifty pounds lighter in weight, her hair is coiffed simply, her clothes ravishing, her make-up a symphony of perfection. For those who grew up in love with Elizabeth Taylor, the movie is pure magic. She is once again the kind of star marquees light up for."
Variety agreed: "Taylor, fashionably gowned and bejeweled carries the film almost single-handedly. Fonda is excellent in his climatic appearance, an unusually superb casting idea. Taylor's performance also is very good, and relative to many of her recent roles, this is one of the strongest and most effective in some time. Her Beauty remains sensational."[1]
Vincent Canby of The New York Times added a dissenting voice, saying the film "was directed by Larry Peerce . . . and written by Jean-Claude Tramont with all the fearlessness and perception demanded in the boiling of an egg."[2]
Roger Dooley of the Village Voice disagreed, thinking the film "Elizabeth Taylor's best role in years... Jean Claude Tramont's screenplay, directed by Larry Pearce, makes one remember why millions of people used to enjoy movies."[3]
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times thought "The movie's story is not really very interesting, but we're intrigued because the star is Taylor. She's 40 or 41 now, and yet she looks great. There's a kind of voyeuristic sensuality in watching her look at herself in the mirror (which she spends no end of time doing) . . . Maybe the fundamental problem with the movie is that we can't quite believe any man would leave Elizabeth Taylor. It's a good thing we never see Henry Fonda's bimbo, because if we did, we wouldn't be convinced."

Release Date: November 21, 1973

Distrib: Paramount


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