by HELEN GEIB
Leap Year is an atrocious romantic comedy starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode as two unlikable people who dislike each other right up to the point the plot requires them to realize they’re madly in love.
The plot in brief: I hate you. I hate you. I hate you. Oh my you’re such a good kisser. I hate you. I love you let’s get married.
The plot in specifics: Anna (Adams) decides to propose to her superficial cardiologist boyfriend after he fails to step up to the plate after four years. A fictitious Irish custom of February 29 being a day for women to propose to men provides the pretextual deadline by which she must get to Dublin, where the boyfriend is conveniently attending a conference. Her flight is re-routed and after a travel travails sequence lifted from Planes, Trains and Automobiles she is dropped off by a fishing boat at the small coastal village where Declan (Goode) runs the local pub. He is appallingly rude to her because the plot requires her to dislike him, but as he is suffering under his own pretextual deadline (repossession of his pub by the local moneylender) agrees to drive her to Dublin despite his woman- and Dublin-hating ways.
More travel travails throw them into close company so they can bicker incessantly and pointlessly until the plot requires them to stop fighting, the sudden outbreak of ordinary social courtesy leading directly to unfounded soulful gazes and delayed-onset sexual tension.
Anna and Declan are all too familiar contemporary romantic comedy types. She is a controlling airhead – until at the formula-determined moment it is revealed that her insecurities stem from a difficult childhood. He is an uncouth jerk – until at the formula-determined moment it is revealed that his gruff exterior hides a wounded heart. Adams and Goode are attractive people with likable screen personalities, but they can’t work magic from nothing and nothing is exactly what Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont’s script and Anand Tucker’s direction give them to work with.
I disliked Anna, Declan, and most especially the movie that housed them so heartily (the film is detestable in its insistence on ridiculing and humiliating Anna for cheap laughs while dark-eyed Declan-Heathcliff gets a free pass for his boorish behavior) that it was not until I left the theater that I realized just how much of the film bears a striking resemblance to the wonderful It Happened One Night, the ultimate road-movie romantic comedy.
Leap Year suffers badly at every point of direct comparison, but I think its most telling flaw is its dishonesty. The plot and situations in a romantic comedy can be contrived, even extremely contrived as they are here, and the film still can work if the characters are appealing and the emotions are honest. There is not one honest note in Leap Year.
The film’s only redeeming feature, and it’s not trivial, is the stunning Irish countryside Anna and Declan travel through. Ireland is a beautiful country and it was beautifully photographed for this film. (The Irish people do not fare so well, being represented in the film by a succession of Hollywood-Irish stereotypes.) The landscapes earned the film nearly all of the one star rating that follows.
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The Proposal is a “first comes bickering, then comes marriage” romantic comedy that makes the formula work. Amy Adams’ Amelia Earhart was the bright spot in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.