Monday, 31 January 2011

Film Review | Leap Year (2010)

Since her break-out performance in 2007's Enchanted, Amy Adams' career has been both varied and increasingly impressive. She brings a comprehensive authenticity to roles, from a feisty and energetic Amelia Earheart in Night At The Museum 2 to the understated and discomfortingly innocent Sister James in Doubt, in which Adams held her own supporting cinematic heavyweights Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep. Adams has proven herself as a talent to watch, which makes it all the more disappointing to see her talents completely wasted in forgettable dross such as Leap Year.

Adams plays Anna Brady, a successful career woman who mistakenly believes her boyfriend of four years Jeremy (Adam Scott) is going to propose to her. When she realises her mistake, she follows the advice of her father (John Lithgow, sadly only in a cameo) to follow Jeremy to Dublin, Ireland when he travels there on business to propose on 29th February as, according to Irish tradition, a woman is allowed to propose to a man only on this day. After her flight is diverted from Ireland to Wales, she finally makes it to the small Irish town of Dingle where she manages to convince innkeeper and taxi driver (yes, really) Declan O'Callaghan (Matthew Goode) to accept the fare of transporting her across the country to Dublin. Their relationship begins at odds with each other, but naturally things change along the way.

Essentially, Leap Year follows the premise of countless other romantic comedies before it. Anna and Declan start off as polar opposites - her a preened and fastidious city girl, him a good old Irish country boy - but over the course of the film they grow much closer. Not that I wish to spoil the film, but if you've ever seen a rom-com you can work this one out for yourself. In terms of genre conventions the film plays things absolutely safe and down the line. This doesn't necessarily make Leap Year awful from the get go, but it does set things off on a decidedly average mark.

Things soon go downhill however. Leap Year contains some incredibly "Hollywood" geography, as Anna lands at Cardiff airport when her flight to Dublin is diverted due to stormy weather. Welsh ferries also out of action because of the storm, she then proceeds to sail from Cardiff to Ireland. In a tiny fishing boat. Manned by one fisherman. Through a raging storm. Yes, really. To cap it all, Dingle - where Anna ends up - is on the far side of Ireland to Wales. Whilst I appreciate the film is supposed to be lighthearted entertainment, with an opening act as ludicrous as Leap Year's it's hard not to become cynical.

The "Hollywood" geography is soon joined by painful Irish stereotypes, as pretty much everyone Anna meets in Ireland apart from Goode's character appears to be a grizzled old bumpkin who spouts superstitious nonsense. Research into Ireland done for the film appears to have consisted of little more than sitting in an Irish theme pub.

Unfortunately it's not just the minor characters who lack depth. Both Anna and Declan have hurried backstories tacked onto them at separate points to explain why they are the way they are (Anna obsessed with keeping to plans, Declan just a bit of an arse) as if the makers of the film suddenly realised their main characters were a bit flimsy and decided on the quickest and laziest way to remedy this. Suffice to say, it doesn't work. It also doesn't help that Adams and Goode have almost no chemistry whatsoever on screen. It's never believable that the two truly hate each other, even less so that they could suddenly fall head over heels in love.

There are worse films in the rom-com genre than Leap Year, but there are also plenty that are much more enjoyable. Adams does the best she can with the trite and predictable script, but she has proven herself to be much better than this and hopefully will steer clear of this kind of tosh in the future. Adams' performance and the views of the beautiful Irish countryside jointly earn Leap Year an extra mark, but this is ultimately a film with ridiculous plot points, cultural ignorance and nothing new to say. If it's lighthearted entertainment you want, watch Enchanted again instead.


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