Movies: Leap Year * *
Every few years, some chancer of a Hollywood hack manages to persuade a studio to back a rom-com set in old Ireland -- not the real Ireland mind, but a misty, salty, beer-sodden little place peopled by relentlessly winking and charming locals who come up with a facile aphorism for every occasion. (Actually that sounds quite like the real Ireland, but never mind.)
Recent gems have included Laws of Attraction and PS I Love You, and now we have Leap Year, a jolly little caper based around the old Irish tradition (I must say I never heard of it) that a woman can propose to a man every February 29. Why the ladies can't propose to the gents whenever the hell they want in this day and age is not made clear, but in any case this leap-year clause becomes very central to the fate of a well-heeled New Yorker.
Anna (Amy Adams) has been secretly hoping for quite some time that her high-flying boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) will propose to her. And when he goes to Ireland on a business trip she decides to take matters into her own hands when she finds out about the aforementioned leap-year tradition. She sets out with high hopes for the auld sod, but when bad weather forces her Dublin-bound plane to divert to Wales, she's forced to chart a fishing boat to take her across the Irish Sea.
The geography of this film does not bear close inspection, but suffice it to say that she manages to get washed up in the Dingle Peninsula, where she staggers into the local bar and asks the way to Dublin. This inquiry provokes considerable mirth from the assembled collection of gombeens and leprechauns, and Anna ends up having to spend the night in this godforsaken kip.
The following morning she manages to persuade the sneering and disagreeable landlord and barman Declan (Matthew Goode) to drive her across country to Dublin. But they're fighting with each other before they've even pulled out of the village. He thinks she's a stuck-up Manhattan cow, she thinks he's an unkempt hayseed, but they both have a secret yen for each other and you can tell from a good mile off where all of this is going.
His car breaks down, her bag is robbed by ruffians (one of whom actually says 'top of the mornin' to ya'), and they end up sharing all sorts of not-very-interesting adventures as they wind their way painfully towards the great metropolis.
The Ireland of Leap Year is of the quaint and pretty and rain-sodden variety, peopled by cunning and work-shy but basically lovable peasants, who would rather pause and take their ease than rush around like those foreign folk. And though I shudder to make the comparison, once Anna and Declan are on the road this film operates as a sort of poor man's It Happened One Night -- a romantic road movie whose outcome is never in doubt.
But unlike that classic screwball comedy, Leap Year could rarely be accused of resorting to actual jokes. It's numbingly unfunny in the main and curiously old-fashioned, and while Amy Adams has enough charm to hold up her end, English actor Matthew Goode is hopelessly out of his depth. Not only does he struggle badly with his accent, but he fails to even seem Irish, and his interpretation of an Irishman seems mainly to comprise of slovenliness and bad hygiene, implications I deeply resent.
At least I might have, a couple of years back. When we were living it up, we might have felt entitled to object to this kind of grotesque and insulting paddywhackery, but these days we'll take any attention we can get. It so happens that Ireland looks pretty fabulous in Leap Year, and may just attract some tourist dollars, so top o' the morning to it, I say.