review for Agatha on AllMovie

Agatha (1979)
by Craig Butler review

There's so much that's right with Agatha that it's a shame its flaws are equally substantial. The biggest flaw, and the one that does the most damage, is simply that it tries to be two films -- a speculative mystery and a quirky romance -- instead of one. Had it stuck to the former, creating a real Agatha Christie-like puzzle full of intricate pieces, it might have been a memorable picture, for the mystery portion of the film is very engaging. Unfortunately, the writers opted to muddle up the proceedings through the introduction of a supposed attraction between Agatha and Stanton, which throws the film off-track and out of kilter. It doesn't help matters that there's a lack of chemistry between Vanessa Redgrave and Dustin Hoffman, or that Hoffman, while undeniably interesting and engaging, is a bit too mannered. By contrast, Redgrave is simply sublime, turning in a performance that's always a joy to watch and manages to mix naturalism with a certain heightened reality to very good effect. Michael Apted's direction is smooth, if not quite up to the task of melding the film's disparate moods into a cohesive whole, and the film has a glorious look -- sumptuous costumes, lovely sets, atmospheric cinematography. If all Agatha's assets can't quite overcome the problems with the script, they still are worthy of admiration.