Sweet meets sour in scenic Ireland

Amy Adams and Matthew Goode in "Leap Year," the story of a woman who goes to Ireland to propose to her boyfriend and meets someone else.
Amy Adams and Matthew Goode in "Leap Year," the story of a woman who goes to Ireland to propose to her boyfriend and meets someone else.
Posted: January 08, 2010

Look before you Leap Year.

A humdrum rom-com about a marriage-minded American bound for Dublin to propose to her noncommittal boyfriend, Leap Year boasts charming actors, ravishing Irish scenery, and a director of taste and talent. The mystery is how all these pluses add up to a minus experience.

Amy Adams plays Anna, an overwound Bostonian tired of waiting for Jeremy (Adam Scott), her cardiologist beau, to propose. When he leaves for a conference in Dublin, Anna decides to fly there to avail herself of the Irish quadrennial tradition of "leap day." On Feb. 29, women can pop the question. (As they can the other 365 days of the year.)

In this heavily diluted version of those classics It Happened One Night and I Know Where I'm Going, on the way to wed Dream Man, Anna gets sidetracked by Sarcastic Guy. And he really gets under her skin.

In this case Sarcastic Guy is Declan (Matthew Goode, the lanky charmer dumped by Scarlett Johansson in Match Point), a pub owner hired by Anna to escort her and her designer luggage to Dublin after her plane makes an emergency landing in Cork. Or is it Dingle?

I like froth as much as the next girl and had parked my brain in the lobby in order to enjoy the ride.

But as conceived by screenwriters Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, Anna is one of those strident, superior professionals who gets knocked off her pedestal so that moviegoers can feel superior to her.

Five minutes into the film, I wanted to kick Anna and her five-inch heels to the curb. Five minutes after that, I wanted to protect her from the filmmakers who knocked her down, dragged her through mud, and asked us to laugh at her klutziness and cluelessness. Am I alone in not finding her ritual humiliation at all funny?

Moviegoers need to invest in a character in order to care about her. To its loss (and ours), Leap Year asks us to divest ourselves of Anna.

Usually Amy Adams can work all kinds of magic with her wide-eyed gaze and wistful smile. But these attributes aren't assets here, they are distancing devices. As engaged as she was in Junebug, Enchanted, and Sunshine Cleaning, that's how disconnected she is here. She doesn't phone in this performance, she texts it.

Faring only slightly better is Goode, the sour to Adams' sweet, the realist puncturing Anna's romantic bubbles. Goode is mordant, loose-limbed, and laid-back in the style of Rupert Everett and John Krasinski. But he could use a role where he has more than the two speeds of glam and glum.

Director Anand Tucker (who made the fine chamber pieces Hilary and Jackie and Shopgirl) doesn't put much of a stamp on the material. He frames Adams and Goode amid picturesque scenery (beautifully shot by Thomas Newton Sigel). After a while, they resemble nothing so much as garden gnomes on the heath.

Yes, there are moviegoers who will enjoy this formulaic treacle. You know who you are.


Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or crickey@phillynews.com. Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/flickgrrl/.

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