— by JOEL CRARY —
Last year, my girlfriend and I stopped by Dublin on a trip across Western Europe. In addition to the inevitable carousing that took place in the city, we took the opportunity to visit Wicklow Mountains National Park, an area of sprawling, largely uninhabited green hillsides and breathtaking views. Settling in for “Leap Year,” a road trip film shot partially in Wicklow, I was looking forward to seeing these sights again.
As the film dragged on, I began to watch the scenery instead of the actors, finding the story a nuisance. Actors Amy Adams and Matthew Goode are placed in front of the wondrously dim green landscapes of Ireland and given completely superfluous dialogue that showcases that: A) Adams’s character is a complete bubblehead; B) Goode’s character is a complete jerk; and C) Putting their two wrongs together makes a complete mess.
Adams plays Anna, a American woman in the “staging” profession. Her job is to outfit homes with furnishings, decorative ware and the odour of baked cookies to attract potential buyers. She has been dating cardiologist boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) for four years and he hasn’t proposed. A friend spots him at a jewelry store and the expectant Anna beams over dinner until Jeremy presents her with a small box that contains – surprise! – earrings.
After Jeremy leaves for Dublin on business, a forlorn Anna is convinced by her father (John Lithgow, looking overjoyed to be onscreen) that an old Irish tradition might help. In Ireland, women have been known to propose to men on Feb. 29, the one day out of every four years when feminism apparently doesn’t exist. Anna packs her Louis Vuitton suitcase, straps on her high heels and puts herself on the next Dublin-bound flight out of Boston.
What woman in her right mind travels thousands of miles wearing the most uncomfortable shoes imaginable? The sight of Adams sticking resolutely with her pumps in scene after scene is agitating. According to “Leap Year,” it’s what women do, especially those with the gumption to drop everything and pin down their good-for-nothing commitment-phobic man once and for all.
The plane has trouble in the air and Anna finds herself stranded in the small town of Dingle on Ireland’s west coast. She convinces a local innkeeper named Declan (Goode) to drive her to Dublin, while the old stereotypes in the bar make senile comments about superstitions. Declan is sarcastic and rude and there to react against Anna’s spoiled demeanor. As for Jeremy, he’s paper-thin and absent, an invisible presence standing for chauvinistic concepts of marriage, economic status and unrealized fantasies.
The film is xenophobic in its presentation of the Irish, here largely composed of pissed off bulbous-nosed louts and criminals. Anna is no better as the token fish-out-of-water American who complains about common courtesy before making cracks about the Gaelic language and thumbing her nose at traditions. Longtime writing team Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont unsuccessfully attempt to make Anna and Declan’s budding relationship charming, but there’s no chemistry between the characters, who spend most of their time being hostile toward each other.
The plot is simply too ridiculous for the film to be of much merit. It’s an excuse for characters to conform to bloated and antiquated ideas of romance that have no grounding in reality, all for the sake of a few tired laughs and some lazily thrown-together melodrama. The marketing of the film instills the desire in its target audience to find out who Anna will ultimately choose, Declan or Jeremy. Her choice is nonsense. About the only thing “Leap Year” does well is remind one of the romance of Ireland by virtue of its gorgeous scenery. Too bad these characters get in the way.
— Click here for seven clips from “Leap Year.” —
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