Leap Year (United States/Ireland, 2010)January 06, 2010
Often, when a romantic comedy fails, it's because of the lack of chemistry between the leads. In the case of Leap Year, the problem isn't the absence of chemistry but the presence of too much of the wrong kind. The sense of cold antagonism that initially develops between the primary characters is so strong that it lingers throughout. With an "oil and water" formula in which the leads are expected to start out sparring and end up kissing, this might not be a bad thing, except it runs too deep and lasts too long. By the time the lovers are going through the motions of succumbing to Cupid, there's neither heat nor passion. We believe the dislike at the onset but not the romance at the payoff. And that's a major flaw.
Anna (Amy Adams) is a flighty social climber. She's more interested in nabbing a coveted available spot in a high-end condominium community that she is in finding true love. Still, she's hoping for marriage so when her long-term boyfriend, Jeremy (Adam Scott), presents her with a gift of twin diamond stud earrings instead of something she can wear on her finger, she's crushed. Before they can discuss it, however, Jeremy is off to Ireland for a doctor's conference. Acting on advice from her father (John Lithgow), Anna follows him. It seems there's an old myth that decrees on Leap Day, a woman in Ireland can propose to a man. With February 29 fast approaching, she books her flight and prepares to pop the question. Unfortunately, bad weather intervenes and Anna ends up in a small Irish town considerably distant from her goal of Dublin. A local pub owner/taxi driver, Declan (Matthew Goode), offers to come to her rescue for the right price. Thus begins a road trip where the two begin to fall under each other's spell as they trade verbal jabs.
Amy Adams is normally likeable but Anna comes across as a perfect storm of shallowness and stupidity. She's annoying and cartoonish. That's bearable in comparison with Matthew Goode's Declan, however, who's a complete asshole. As they embark upon their road trip, a local remarks that they'll kill each other. Would that we could be so lucky... Had they died early in the journey, we would have been spared the final 45 minutes. Of course they fall for each other in the end. That's the formula and director Anand Tucker has no interest in disappointing his core audience, but I didn't believe for a moment that these two, as presented, could bridge their despite to find a place of peaceful coexistence (much less amour). If there was to be a sequel (as unlikely a proposition as one can imagine), the supporting characters would be divorce lawyers.
As a travelogue of rural Ireland, Leap Year isn't half-bad, although it tends to reinforce certain stereotypes about mud, rain, and rampant superstition. This is the Ireland one expects to see in a movie, where the old men all talk and look a little like leprechauns and the women are motherly and full of good advice. The film gets some mileage from the fish-out-of-water aspect of Anna's story but, like most of the elements in Leap Year, it doesn't quite work. The scene in which she practically wrecks a small hotel room trying to plug in her blackberry is more cringe-inducing than funny.
The early January release date is indicative of the studio's tepid expectations for the film; it didn't even merit a Valentine's Day opening. If there's one thing to be said in Leap Year's favor, it's that at least the characters spend most of the film in each other's company rather than separated by contrivances (a situation that would force them to fall in love after exchanging about two lines of dialogue). In theory, this approach should allow a bond to develop. The problem is, whatever romantic seed germinates is kept hidden from the audience. So, as in too many movies of this sort, we are forced to accept the liaison for no reason more compelling than that the screenplay tells us it's the case, not because any credible evidence has been presented. It's sort of like the parental explanation of "Because I said so." With the on-screen evidence of compelling affection so niggardly, it makes for an unappealing and disappointing love affair.
Leap Year (United States/Ireland, 2010)
Cast: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott, John Lithgow
Screenplay: Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont
Cinematography: Newton Thomas Sigel
Music: Randy Edelman
U.S. Distributor: Universal Pictures