Fine acting graces blarney-filled 'Starlight'

February 23, 1996|By Stephen Hunter

"Frankie Starlight," trailing pixie dust and whimsy, shimmers into the Charles today for a week in rotation with "Shanghai Triad."

The film is a piece of Irish blarney, and if you love Irish blarney, here's where you go to get it.

It follows as a poor French girl named Bernadette (Anne Parillaud), impregnated by a U.S. soldier, tries to build a life for herself and her child in Ireland. She can't speak English, and the child is born a little person.

The only guardian angel is a customs official played by Gabriel Byrne whose humanitarianism is somewhat tempered by his own weakness for Bernadette's stunning beauty.

But the real story of "Frankie Starlight" is of the two little people -- Corban Walker and young Alan Pentony -- who play Frank as a child and a man.

It's great acting: vivid, compassionate, unbelievably dignified, a boy and a man who utterly refuse to be a punch line in anyone's idea of a joke.

The movie dithers a bit, particularly in a long subplot involving Matt Dillon as a U.S. soldier who comes back to Ireland in search of Bernadette and drags her off to Texas. Necessary? Not hardly.

Still, as a sweet and unprepossessing story of the possibility of dignity in a cruel world, "Frankie Starlight" works very well. Unrated ** 1/2

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