'The Closer You Get': A Load Of Blarney

Posted: March 10, 2000

Ah, Ireland, land of black craggy hills, lush green fields, tiny villages with whitewashed cottages looking out onto wee fishing boats bobbing in a bracing sea. The pubs pour creamy-headed stout, the townsfolk are a dreamy-headed lot, and the air's a'tingle with charm and blarney.

Enough already!

The Closer You Get is another entry in that increasingly annoying genre of Celtic cinema where the accents are as thick as a slab of breakfast sausage and everybody's got his or her nose in everybody else's business. And the filmmakers - in this case, the producer of The Full Monty and first-time director Aileen Ritchie - expect audiences to be bowled over by the wit and whimsy of it all.

The story here is about a gang of sorry County Donegal men who, fueled by pints of Guinness and the pictorials in the latest issue of Playboy, decide to take out an ad in the Miami Herald inviting American women (age: 20 to 21) to visit them in little Kilvara with a "view to marriage." The guys, who include a butcher (Ian Hart), a tractor repairman, and a kid who looks like a cross between Adam Sandler and Aidan Quinn (Sean McDonagh's his name), are under the mutual delusion that busloads of American babes will respond to their invitation.

When the village postmistress, who sees it as her right and responsibility to read the village's mail, gets wind of the ad, the women of Kilvara decide to take matters into their own hands - which basically involves donning dresses, dabbing on makeup, and flirting with a band of Spanish sailors at the annual St. Martha's Day dance.

The message in The Closer You Get is that "sometimes the closer you get to something, the harder it is to see it." Romance and happiness can be found right down the street, not among the be-thonged throngs of Miami Beach.

This is all well and good, but the film's comic mini-dramas aren't particularly comic, its insights are trite, and its pantheon of peat-bred Irish bumpkins uniformly uninteresting. (In anticipation of the onslaught of sexy young things from across the ocean, Hart's character undergoes a makeover, dying his hair bleached blond and instituting a rigorous regimen of daily exercises: one or two pushups before collapsing on the floor. The very essence of hilarity, no? No.)

Of course, if The Closer You Get takes off at the box office (not bloody likely), there could be a Fox-TV game show spinoff in the future: Who Wants to Marry an Irish Butcher? Darva, where are you?

THE CLOSER YOU GET * 1/2 Produced by Uberto Pasolini, directed by Aileen Ritchie, written by William Ivory, photography by Robert Alazraki, music by Rachel Portman, distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Running time: 1 hour, 32 mins.

Kieran........Ian Hart

Kate..........Niamh Cusack

Ian...........Sean McGinley

Sean..........Sean McDonagh

Pat...........Ewan Stewart

Parent's guide: PG-13 (sexual situations, adult themes)

Showing at: Ritz at the Bourse and Ritz Sixteen/NJ

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