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20 March 2017

Leap Year (2010)

Directed by: Anand Tucker
Starring: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, 
Adam Scott, John Lithgow, Kaitlin Olsen
Last week, blog reader (and fellow conspirator when it comes to movie-watchalongs) Shalini sent me a list of films that are meant to chase away the blues. One of them, she said, had leads who were ‘gorgeous and talented; bonus: the movie is set in Ireland’. Since one of the ‘gorgeous leads’ was Amy Adams, I had no difficulty in convincing my husband to watch this film with me. I forbore to mention to him that Shalini had categorized the film as a ‘chick flick’; what’s more, she had mentioned that the film had been critically panned. So we settled down to watch a rom-com, not exactly the genre that my husband is enamoured of – but I assumed, correctly as it turns out, that he would be willing to watch Amy Adams read from a phone book. I’d also assumed, incorrectly as it turned out, that since my movie watching had been rather splintered these past weeks, we wouldn’t watch the whole movie at one stretch.

Onwards then, to the most predictable rom-com in the history of rom-coms...

Anna Brady (Amy Adams) is a real-estate ‘stager’ – a person, here, who ‘stages’ your house so it will sell faster. [They bring in furniture and accessories to set a room so buyers can see the potential of the house they are viewing. Incredibly, it works.] She is madly in love with Jeremy Sloane (Adam Scott), a resident cardiologist whose career is on the fast lane to success. 
(S took one look at ‘Jeremy’ and said, ‘Is this guy the hero? Can we trust Shalini?And then: ‘He can’t be the hero. Look at his hair!’ Not knowing who Matthew Good was, I’m afraid he had a point. People with such shiny hair do not usually get the girl. And Adam Scott, with due apologies to all Adam Scott fans out there, looked particularly repulsive.)
Anna and Jeremy have recently taken the next step forward in their four-year relationship – they are planning to buy an apartment together. Anna had hoped that Jeremy would formalise their relationship with a proposal, but the perfect dinner before Jeremy has to leave for a cardiologists’ conference in Dublin fizzles out when the expected ring turns out to be a pair of earrings.
Devastated, Anna remembers a tale that her father (the irrepressible John Lithgow in a cameo) coming from good Irish stock himself, had related to her - of Grandma Jane proposing to Grandpa [someone or the other, I’ve forgotten his name] on February 29th – it’s apparently an old Irish tradition where women could propose to men during the leap year, and they couldn’t refuse. [I mutter: ‘It’s 2010, woman! If you want to propose to your man, you can do it in Boston, without falling back on some archaic tradition. I did that back in the 90s. S grins. ‘Did you?’ I kick him as well I can from under the blanket.]

Impulsively, Anna decides to surprise Jeremy by flying to Dublin so she can propose to him on the 29th. Being Anna, she’s carefully planned the enterprise to give herself enough time to reach Dublin, go shopping for a dress and a ring, book a restaurant for the grand proposal…. the works. Unfortunately for her, the weather doesn’t cooperate. The flight gets diverted to Cardiff. [Which happens to be in Wales. Not Ireland.]

Unwilling to be diverted from the success of her mission, Anna first tries the railways and then the bus lines, only to be stymied. Finally, however, our intrepid heroine manages to find a brave [foolhardy?] soul who will ferry her to Cork, from where she can proceed to Dublin. The storm intensifies, and their craft is forced to land in Dingle. It seems that everything that can go wrong with this escapade, does.
Pulling her Louis Vuitton suitcase behind her, wearing the most impractical $600 shoes, our heroine tramps on, wet and bedraggled, until she reaches signs of human habitation – a pub, run by the rough and rather surly Declan O’Callaghan (Matthew Goode). [I sat up; this had to be the hero. S agreed – he had scruffy hair. Besides, what do cardiologists know about matters of the heart? Especially one who has to go through the spine to get at an aorta. S also admitted that he had impugned Shalini’s taste. I had trouble recollecting where I’d seen Goode before.]
Anna’s attempt to get him to take her to Dublin initially fails, since Declan doesn’t seem to fall under the spell of ‘Anna from Boston’; but her offer of 500 persuades him. Especially since Anna manages to bring the ceiling down (literally!) and he’s in danger of foreclosure.

The next morning sees this odd couple set off on their journey, bickering all the way about all manner of things, from her Louis Vuitton suitcase (‘She names her suitcase? She's a crackpot!’) to his old beat-up car (‘I’ll have you know she’s a Renault Classic.’) to the ‘age-old tradition of a woman proposing to the man.’ (‘You’re an idiot!’ – I agreed.)
Their journey is hindered by cows on the road, a car accidentally pushed into a pond, the kidnapping of ‘Louis’, missed trains, a bar fight, heavy rain, unexpected hail… In the process, Anna manages to lose her luggage, almost decapitate a bride on her wedding day (and ruin her wedding dress), nearly break her neck falling down a mountainside, get drunk, miss trains and buses, and question what she wants and whether she really needs what she has…
The film winds down to its predictable end, but not before Anna has the perfect proposal of her dreams.
Rom-coms about mismatched couples are not very uncommon. In fact, they are the very foundation of romances, which do tend to take ‘odd couples’ rather literally. Being Hollywood, they also take liberties with geography (so does our cinema, by the way – I remember Indians who lived in New Jersey/New York breaking out in hives at the mention of Kal Ho Na Ho) with state parks standing in for towns, and several geographical landmarks being haphazardly moved around to suit the vagaries of the plot. I’m relatively certain the Irish may have taken great umbrage to the stereotypical depiction of their country and countrymen (some of them even managed to emphasise the Irish stereotype by making it a drinking game every time they came across an Irish stereotype in the film); certainly, as Shalini warned me, this film does not stand up to critical analysis.
Leaving aside irritating questions such as ‘Who in their right minds would set off on a fishing boat in the middle of a storm?’ or ‘Why would anyone think that walking miles in high heels is a great idea?’, this film managed to charm me. For I like Amy Adams quite as much as my husband does, and she brings an endearing quality to her rendition of the uptight, tightly-wound Anna, who rarely lets her mask skip to reveal her vulnerability. She radiates warmth and essential goodness, and I like her seemingly unconscious little expressions that always make me break into a grin.
Matthew Goode provided some much-needed addition to what Shalini calls ‘human eye-candy’. (I also realised where I’d ‘seen’ him before – he was Henry Talbot on Downton Abbey.) Add Ireland’s natural beauty – they really shot in some beautiful places, some nice music, some [corny, but] laugh-out-loud dialogues (and you’ve an essentially low-brow film that’s pretty damn palatable. 
Just don’t view it through a feminist lens, because as in nearly every rom-com, the woman is rather silly in love and needs to be nudged into ‘knowing what her heart wants’. The stereotypes are gender-neutral though; the man is broodingly handsome in a Rochester-kind of way, and is a rude, manner-less boor who has suffered™ from heartbreak. ­Every single rom-com trope that can be there, is there. Accept those stereotypes, view it as a spoof on a rom-com, and ­­­it’s a very pleasant way to spend a Friday evening.

p.s. S recovered from a critically-panned rom-com (despite Amy Adams) by watching a critically-panned sci-fi horror film known as the 'Piranhaconda' which (according to him), was about the illegitimate offspring of a piranha and an anaconda. That, by the way, is also his defence against the accusation I usually level against him on this blog that of being a film snob.

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