Leap Year | Romance | rated PG | starring Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott | 1:40 mins
When her boyfriend of 4 years (Adam Scott) doesn’t propose to her as she expected, Anna (Amy Adams) decides to head to Dublin, Ireland where, as legend has it, for one day every few years, Leap Day, it is acceptable for a woman to propose to a man. But her plan gets a wrench thrown into it’s gears when a series of storms and travel mishaps forces her to hitch a ride with a cynical, unrefined bartender (Matthew Goode) and… well, you know the rest…
Oh, Amy Adams, what I will put up with for thee. With her perfectly cartoonish performance in Enchanted, her charmingly old fashioned turn in Miss Petigrew Lives for a Day, her dramatic turn in Doubt and her squeezing into those flight pants for Night at the Museum 2, the always game Adams frequently proves to be the bright light of a movie. And for all of those fans she’s won over because of that – Leap Year is your punishment. Adams and Goode have been tapped by the studio to fill the shoes of the latest romantic comedy couple forced together by only-in-a-movie contrivances.
In the past it’s usually been the horror genre that’s looked down on by critics as the genre that any independent, wannabe filmmaker with a bucket of red corn syrup and a hookup at the local butcher shop could use to get into. Now it’s romantic comedies and the charge has been led by the studios themselves. Pump out the same movies, using the same formula, telling the same stories over and over. The only way to distinguish them: the actors playing the attractive leads and the location (you don’t even have to change their characters). Bingo. Romantic comedy. Anyone with a camera and 2 beautiful people could make these movies. Anyone. In fact, I would challenge all up-and-coming filmmakers out there to give it a shot. It can’t be any worse than what the studios are pumping out, which are 10 times more condescending and derivative than Roger Ebert’s “dead teenager” movies.
Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Adams plays here Anna, a very precise woman who has everything in her life planned out. She’s got the wealthy trophy boyfriend (Adam Scott, yes, Adam Scott) and the lavish new apartment. And she really wants to get married. Now, already we know three things: 1) she won’t end the movie with Adam Scott and 2) Scott’s character will prove to be a materialistic jerk and 3) her orderly existence will be shaken up by a new guy – and she’ll like it. She wants her boyfriend to propose, but he hasn’t so she decide she will just do it. But because she can’t do that in America she has to travel to Ireland where on Leap Day a woman is allowed to propose to a man. I know I already said this in the summery, but it bears repeating just how fundamentally stupid it is. The premise of Leap Year is so bizarre, so wafer-thin and so unnecessary that at the first sign of it, 5 minutes in with the appearance of John Lithgow, you’d think the movie might become aware of it’s own futility and just disappear into a puff of smoke.
When she arrives in Ireland she stumbles into a bar where she encounters a cynical unkempt guy who helps her along the way. And like in all of these movies they immediately dislike each other instead of being courteous as real people would. They also become oddly invested in each other and the motivations behind the way they are, as real people don’t. If Anna met a cynical unkempt bartender in real life she wouldn’t probe into his life and get him to change, she’s dismiss him as a jerk immediately, not give him a second thought and move onto another guy who was kind to her.
At this point we know another thing: that cynical bartender, he’s cynical for a reason – he’s been jilted somehow, in a way that once revealed will warm her heart. That bartender/cab driver/inn keeper in the Gerard Butler role is played by Matthew Goode, who you may remember as the dorky villain from Watchmen. But since Goode has been put through the romantic comedy ringer and come out with facial hair, SBH (Scruffy Boyfriend Hair) and an muddled Irish accent designed to make the hearts of women everywhere flutter. In another break from reality, the two are forced to pretend to be married and have to sleep in the same bed during their trip. Suddenly, they are engaged in a conversation with a couple about how to passionately kiss their spouse and are cajoled into kissing each other to prove their story. That happens.
Typically it’s an annoyance when it looks like you’re watching a movie that was conceived as an excuse as a paid vacation. But I would have welcomed that with Leap Year. The movie should be about Ireland and it looks like it could have been filmed in any field, any castle or any sound stage. If the crew went to Ireland, and it appears they did, it is shot so plainly and claustrophobic that we get very little or no sense of the grandeur, beauty and culture of the country.
As you know, it all ends with a kiss against the sunset and some old Irish townsfolk bickering about folklore for attempted “comic relief” after the movie’s inevitable and utterly forced pairing of these two chemistry-free actors. And once again, even more-so this time, we are left with Amy Adams being the one thing that this movie is worth watching for. She isn’t given a challenge or a character to play. But she is more gorgeous in this then she’s been to date. And that’s all Leap Year requires of her and us.