A charming, fairly light-weight film, Widows' Peak gives us an odd but basically workable mix of comedy, drama, murder-mystery, and suspense. In a small Irish town, the "queen bee" Mrs. Doyle-Counihan (Joan Plowright) rules society with an iron hand from her home on the eponymous Widows' Peak, so called because all the inhabitants (other than Mrs. DC's tied-by-the-apron-strings son) have qualified by means of a deceased husband. Into this tight little society comes a stranger named Edwina (Natasha Richardson) who seems determined to stir things up; among eavesdropping biddies who love a good scandal, she has quite an effect. But is there more here than meets the eye?
For the most part, the performances in Widows' Peak are exaggerated, though fortunately not to the point of being farcical. That's where the humor in the film lies, rather than in any particular jokes. Joan Plowright's Mrs. DC is quite the matriarch, while Natasha Richardson's Edwina is a total vamp, complete with an assumed US accent that manages to push her just a little bit over the top. Mia Farrow underplays a bit with her role as Miss O'Hare, but it's reasonably effective in conjunction with the other performances.
The mystery itself unfolds through character interactions, as deep, dark secrets are revealed and we find that all is certainly not as it seems. I found the plot to be moderately interesting but not extremely compelling. If you are interested in the characters, it won't be a stretch to enjoy the plot that keeps them interacting with each other. All in all, Widows' Peak ends up being a mildly enjoyable romp, one that takes itself seriously enough to make things work, but that has enough of a tongue in cheek to have fun with the exaggerated characters.
Widows' Peak appears in its original widescreen theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, and is anamorphically enhanced. It's quite an attractive transfer, with bright, lively colors, an overall natural look, and a clean, crisp print.
The soundtrack here is very much dialogue-centered, so there's not a whole lot for the various surround tracks to do, but the overall sound quality is excellent. The DTS and Dolby 5.1 tracks offer a pleasing sense of depth and clarity; theres' not much use of surround sound, but it's a pleasing audio experience. A Dolby 2.0 track is also included, as are English and Spanish subtitles.
The only special features are a trailer for the film and one for other New Line releases.
Widows' Peak is a minor film that sets out to tell a charming story about mystery, murder, and secrets in a small Irish town; it's generally successful in what it does, as the performances by Joan Plowright, Natasha Richardson, Mia Farrow, and others are slightly over the top but appropriate for the overall tone of the story. It looks good in its DVD transfer, and would make for a reasonable rental.