Monday, June 14, 2010
The title Leap Year refers to the Irish tradition that allows women to propose marriage to men on February 29th. So, I suppose that this movie should have been called February 29th or Leap Year Day. Fun fact: the actual Leap Year marriage tradition in the English-speaking world isn't necessarily limited to Ireland or that particular day; the whole year is wide open for proposals. That way, desperate women have a whole year to impose their will upon their unwilling boyfriends.
Anna (Amy Adams) is super successful and is enjoying a high class Boston lifestyle, with fancy clothes, rich friends, and a cardiologist boyfriend, Jeremy (Adam Scott). It doesn't matter that her job has less redeeming social value than a crack dealer, her friends are bitter and shallow, or that her boyfriend is self-centered and shows off heart surgery pictures during dinner. You're supposed to like Anna and sympathize with her problem. What problem, you ask? Well, Jeremy was spotted leaving a fancy jewelry shop, so Anna and her friend (Kaitlin Olson) freak out like those commercials where they say "He went to JARED!" Well, Jeremy and Anna have a special dinner date planned for the night before he has to leave for Dublin, Ireland for a cardiologist conference; Anna assumes that he will propose, but instead, he gives her really nice diamond earrings. Bastard. After he has left for Dublin, Anna reflects on something her father told her (John Lithgow, whose two or three minute performance earned him fourth billing in the credits); in Ireland, women can propose to men on February 29th. And, as you might have guessed, this film takes place during a Leap Year. The next Leap Year is in 2012, so I suppose that this movie could be seen as a glimpse into our future. I'm afraid it's neither a romantic nor comedic future.
Anna decides to fly to Dublin right away, but her flight is diverted to Wales because of poor weather conditions. No planes are flying, and she has to get to Dublin by tomorrow (more on that later), so she charters a small fishing boat. I didn't notice her trying to rent a car, though. The ocean waters are too rough to reach Dublin, so Anna is dropped off in Quaint Irish Town, Ireland, which has only one restaurant, one hotel and one taxi service, all of which are run by Declan (Matthew Goode). Declan is a little ornery, but who wouldn't be? Anna comes in, is cranky about her whole Leap Year situation, and basically insults his town, tavern, and hotel within minutes of meeting him. After some hilarious hijinks (it turns out that Anna --- get this --- is a little clumsy and doesn't respect other people's property! Guffaw!), Declan agrees to take Anna to Dublin for a fee (his tavern is in financial trouble). Again, hijinks ensue, and Anna accidentally causes Declan's car to crash into a shallow lake. It will take a day for the tow truck to get the car out, so Anna decides to find another modes of transportation. Declan follows because, somehow, that qualifies as taking her to Dublin. Along the way, the two squabble constantly. You have never seen such a poorly matched couple..unless you're married! Bada-BING! And yet...Declan gets in a fight for Anna and expresses sympathy for the fact that her dad is unreliable. And Anna, in a moment of true mutual understanding, pukes on Declan's shoes. It's a romantic comedy, so this odd couple will obviously fall in love, but what will happen when Anna finally gets to Dublin and sees Jeremy again?
I disguise this fact pretty well, I know, but I am not a huge romantic comedy fan. That doesn't mean that I can't like them, I just tend not to because I find them insulting to my intelligence and incredibly not funny. In all fairness, Leap Year is not god awful. Amy Adams is able to pull off naive and bubbly any day of the week, and having her as the main character makes sense for a rom-com. I wouldn't say that her comedic talents are fantastic, but she does play a good straight woman for others to joke around. She's a likable actress and, when given the right character, she can be fun to watch. Matthew Goode has some leading man potential; he's reasonably handsome and has an Irish brogue, which the ladies tend to like. His emotional scenes are subtle, which is nice (although repeated: close your eyes and sigh...now!). He doesn't immediately appear to be a romantic good guy, so he can get away with playing a bit of a scoundrel, which is a nice change for this genre.
...And that's all the good I can say about this movie. The premise is ridiculous. Let's just ignore the accuracy of the tradition this movie describes. What we are left with is a female lead that is desperate enough to commit to a trans-Atlantic flight to propose to her man. If the character was portrayed as strong-willed and independent, that would work. Anna, unfortunately, defines herself by her possessions; she has so many things, but nothing is really important to her. She doesn't have much of a backstory because she's a fairly shallow character. A character that is driven by the desire to possess is not romantic or funny; they are desperate and sad. Do you want a hint that this is a bad premise? Both Amy Adams and Matthew Goode have lines where they ridicule the Leap Day tradition. When you have a stupid idea for a movie, you need to be pretty damn funny to make fun of yourself, otherwise you are just pointing out the flaws in your movie.
Worse than the stupid premise are the Bostonian characters. We are clearly meant to connect to Anna, to feel her pain throughout. When she doesn't get proposed to, the audience is expected to feel sorry for her. Maybe I'm just a guy, but getting nice jewelry doesn't elicit sympathy from me. I understand that she was let down, but they made this out to be as bad as if her fiance slept with her twin sister. Her fiance, Jeremy, is supposed to be annoying (so we can root for Matthew Goode), but he's really obnoxious. Obnoxious to the point of me not liking Anna for dating him. Everyone is Boston is shown to be petty, selfish and shallow. Yes, this makes it important for her to go to Ireland --- I get it--- but it's boring, lazy writing that is without the benefit of charm. Why should I care about Anna, a shallow, somewhat ditzy, desperate woman with nothing of value except a charming smile? Leap Year doesn't ever give you a reason.
I don't even want to bother with the Irish characters. It turns out that most of them have been trapped in a limerick for a few decades and are just now getting out and about. On the bright side, there were no leprechauns. Although Warwick Davis could have added a much needed twist to this story...hmm...I smell sequel! And what was with the time frame in this movie? Anna has to get to Dublin today when she's in the airport, but she spends one night a Declan's inn, one night at a bed and breakfast, and hangs out at a wedding for an entire day. Oh, and it's still in time for Leap Year Day. If she's this uptight, Anna is a stone cold bitch. I don't think that's what the writers mean to convey; I think they just assumed that the audience's frontal lobe would have turned to tapioca halfway through the film and they could get away with minor problems like time being an important plot device for this movie.
In a word: ugh. I'll give credit where it's due to the two leads (despite Adams' terrible character), but it's nowhere near enough to make this watchable. Director Anand Tucker deserves some credit for their chemistry (and lack thereof), but he undoubtedly should get the majority of the blame for the horrible supporting roles and predictable story. Then again, I'm a guy, so take this with a grain of well-argued salt.