Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)

Pemberley (Lyme Park, Cheshire)
Oh, to be in England...

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Circle of Friends 1995

Circle of Friends 1995 with Minnie Driver and Chris O'Donnell
I went through a Maeve Binchy phase a few years ago where I read as many of this Irish writer's novels as I could get my hands on. She gives a wonderful idea of what it is like to be a woman in Ireland in modern times as well as in the recent past.

Circle of Friends is one of her better books about three girls growing up and going to University in Ireland in the 1950s. This great coming of age story was adapted for the screen by one of my favourite screen writers, Andrew Davies. The main character Bernadette Hogan, or Benny (played by Minnie Driver) is a big girl who lives in Knockglen Ireland and enrolls in University of Dublin, Trinity College with her best friend Eve Malone (an orphan raised by nuns and played by Geraldine O'Rawe) and their childhood friend Nan Mahon (Saffron Burrows) the gorgeous girl who moved to Dublin. Of course there is a guy- Jack Foley, played by Chris O'Donnell who provides the main love interest and fodder for some conflict between the girls.

Benny and Eve on the first day of University in Dublin from Circle of Friends
Bernadette 'Benny' Hogan: I don't know why you let me go to University. It's like taking me to the top of the mountain and showing me the world, and then marching me back down, and saying, "That's what you can't have Benny, you silly great fat article. Here's what you can have: Knockglen for the rest of your life and married to Sean bloody Walsh!" I'd rather be married to a bloody lizard!

Minnie Driver apparently gained 30 pounds to play Benny, however she still seems to be more tall than "large", but she does a fantastic job playing the girl who gets the golden boy, ever feeling that she can't quite hold on to him.

Jack and Benny from Circle of Friends
Bernadette 'Benny' Hogan: He could have anyone at all. Why would he look at me?

Post war university class in Circle of Friends
The professor that these eager young students are attending to is a nice surprise, played by Ciaran Hinds as Professor Flynn.

Ciaran Hinds as Professor Flynn in Circle of Friends

Colin Firth also has a role as the rich protestant neighbour of the families in Knockglen. He does not turn out to be a really nice guy, in the end.

Colin Firth and Saffron Burrows in Circle of Friends
Benny has some interesting views on sex, being a good Catholic girl from Knockglen...

[about sex]
Bernadette 'Benny' Hogan: I don't know. Sometimes it seems like such a strange sort of thing to want to do. You know, ridiculous. Like someone putting their finger up your nose or something.

Alan Cumming as the creepy Sean Walsh in Circle of Friends
I have to say that the breakout performance of this film is definitely Alan Cumming as the creepy, lizard-like Sean Walsh who works in Benny's father's mens store.  He is truly a great actor and this is one of his best roles. You will be disgusted and yet impressed with his acting at the same time!

Minnie Driver as Benny Hogan in Circle of Friends
Bernadette 'Benny' Hogan: Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I look like the prow of a ship!

I won't give away the ending in case you haven't yet seen this little gem. It isn't one of the great films of the century, but it is a lovely diversion to travel back in time to County Kilkenny where this was filmed and spend some time with Benny and her circle of friends.

Bernadette 'Benny' Hogan: I don't care what the priests say. I think we should do as we feel.

Circle of Friends: A NovelCircle of Friends


  1. Ahh. This book (and movie) is where I learned to love Binchy.....

  2. Once I discovered Maeve Binchy, I had great fun catching up on all of her books since I loved her characters and she made me feel like I was living in Ireland!

    I was SO frustrated with the film's ending however. In the book, I was so pleased that Benny didn't take Jack back (however charming he was!) Although I'm usually a sucker for happy-ever-afters, I was livid that the movie changed the ending. One of my worst film endings ever! I felt like Benny had sold out :(

    *shakes head* I can never understand why movie directors/writers would ever have the nerve to change the ending of an author's work.

  3. @Mimi and Cheryl-Sounds like a good summer to pick up a few of my old Maeve Binchy books!

    As to the ending, I think if the book isn't fresh in your mind it's a pretty good flick. You can imagine the meeting where they decided to change the ending though can't you? "But it has to have a happy ending!"

    It's all that damn Nan's fault anyway. The witch!

  4. Jenny, I agree, it was a pretty good film! It actually was one of the first film adaptations I recall ever seeing of a book that I'd read. It's always great to see the story come to life but that ending was an "F" which sadly brought the average way down. Wish I didn't allow bad endings to ruin books or movies for me but they do!

  5. I felt the same way about Old Curiosity Shop by Dickens (almost threw the book in the lake). When you expect one kind of ending and you get the exact opposite, it is really awful!

    I may dig out the novel now. Sounds like a good time for a Maeve moment!

  6. I've heard of this movie but never knew enough about it to want to see it--sounds like I would like it thou--thanks for the recommendation.

  7. I loved this movie and I thought that Alan Cumming's character was horrid and sooooo pervy. Every time I watch this movie, he still manages to make me cringe. I much prefer him as lovable characters, such as "Moody Frank" in Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion". (I think that was the characters name; it's been a while.)

  8. @Jane-yes I think it is one well worth renting!

    @ladytoesocks-I agree that he is pretty creepy as Sean Walsh. Less slimy but still icky as Mr. Elton in Emma and best yet as Sandy Frink (I had to look that one up for you!) in Romy and Michelle. I loved his helicopter in that movie!
    The man can really act that's for sure.

  9. I must see this one again; my mother-in-law knew Maeve Binchy when they were students in Dublin (I think Maeve was a year or two behind my M-I-L), and I always think of my in-laws when I see this film - this was their university years!




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