A woman proposing to a man? Leap Year takes the sexist premise that women are forbidden from popping the question year-round and adds every rom-com cliché and Irish stereotype. The result: "The cinematic equivalent of a Shamrock Shake."
In the film (or "film," as the case may be) Anna (Amy Adams), a "stager" who decorates condos to lure buyers, is upset because after four years of dating, her cardiologist boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) hasn't proposed. Anna's father (John Lithgow) tips her off about an Irish tradition that says women can propose to men on February 29 (apparently they're both unaware that this is acceptable in America on every day of the year). Rather than having an adult conversation with Jeremy about their relationship, Anna decides to follow him to Dublin, where he's attending a medical convention, and propose. Of course, she's waylaid by bad weather conditions and ends up in Dingle, Ireland. There she meets Declan (Matthew Goode) and hires him to drive her to Dublin. During their trek they openly express their hatred for each other, but since Declan is handsome, surly, and poor, and Anna is a bitchy career woman who only cares about getting married (and designer labels), it's pretty obvious how this plays out.
Critics loathed this movie. Many said this film, along with Renee Zellweger's New In Town and Sarah Jessica Parker's Did You Hear About The Mogans, prove that romantic comedies are on a downward spiral. Also, while the scenery is beautiful, the Irish are portrayed as superstitious, backward buffons. Most reviews laid the blame on the screenwriters (who also brought us Made of Honor), but several critics declared that they're increasingly less enchanted with Adams. She and Goode convey their animosity so well that their inevitable flip seems ridiculous. Hopefully Amy Adams' charm can land her back in critics' good graces, but when The New York Times compares your latest film to "a load of poo," there's a problem. Below, the reviews.
Mid-January and already there's another romantic comedy that makes you weep for the genre. Honestly. After P.S. I Love You, 27 Dresses, Bride Wars and The Ugly Truth, Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing are going to step right out of the first folio edition of Shakespeare's play and go on a revenge killing spree. Leap Year begins terribly, and I mean terribly, as its genial performers — Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, but mainly Amy Adams — plug away and do what they can to humanize material that puts the "ick" in "formulaic." Scene after scene affords you the opportunity to practice your pained smile, the one Alvy Singer had on his face in the agent's office in Annie Hall.
Bottom line: This is a full-bore, PG-rated, sweet rom-com. It sticks to the track, makes all the scheduled stops and bears us triumphantly to the station. And it is populated by colorful characters, but then, when was the last time you saw a boring Irishman in a movie?
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.
Scenes of her staggering around in inappropriate apparel are reminiscent of The Proposal and New in Town. Must romantic comedies depict all career woman as ill-equipped to survive anywhere but the big city? And must these women always endure humiliating slips and falls to land their men? A revolving door of one-note characters crops up, all unfunny variations on an insulting theme. These well-meaning residents of rural Ireland are stereotyped as superstitious fools, lovable sots or out-and-out buffoons. It's hard not to take umbrage for them, no matter what your heritage.
Like last year's dire Isla Fisher vehicle Confessions Of A Shopaholic, Leap Year pits the megawatt charm of an adorable actress against the inanity of the romantic comedy at its most insultingly convoluted and ridiculous. Star Amy Adams is a sentient ball of cuteness, but not even she nor her appealing co-star Matthew Goode can keep this gimmicky contraption afloat. There isn't a spontaneous or unpredictable moment in this loving, perversely reverent homage to rom-com, road-movie, and mismatched-romance conventions... The film functions as the cinematic equivalent of a Shamrock Shake: sickeningly, artificially sweet, formulaic, and about as authentically Gaelic as an Irish Spring commercial.
Adams is surely one of the most appealing screen presences to emerge in recent years, but her warmth can do only so much to redeem the role's condescending stereotype. Goode, who's built an impressive dramatic resume (A Single Man, Brideshead Revisited, Match Point), reveals genuine comic spark here; still, the material is beneath both performers. Likewise director Anand Tucker (Shopgirl, Hilary and Jackie), who seldom descends to completely broad genre-alities but can't rise above the pic's overall contrivance either.
Free from sex or naughty language, Leap Year appears to have been designed for that huge mother-daughter matinee market, ahem. Trust me: Take mom to It's Complicated instead.
It's unclear what Amy Adams did to deserve Leap Year,' but all that's missing from the movie is a set of jailhouse bars over her scenes. She plays Anna, one of those uptight, over-prepared yuppies whose goals amount to engagement rings and real estate. It's not that she looks miserable - her eyes continue to pop with bliss and her voice retains its soothing lilt. But the snobbery, blind determination, and materialism she deploys are aggravating since they have nothing to do with the Amy Adams we've come to know. (This is the sort of movie where her Louis Vuitton rollerbag is called by its first name.)
If you're wondering what all this shoe and mud business has to do with romance, or with comedy, you're not alone. Leap Year is clearly designed as a vehicle for the inescapable cuteness of Amy Adams, but it suggests her novelty is wearing thin. Maybe that's because this movie is simply following too closely on the heels of Julie & Julia in which Adams was saddled with the role of a whiny cooking blogger (and was too easily upstaged by Meryl Streep, who made a terrific, tootling Julia Child). Regardless, Adams is too pouty and petulant here — her shtick is more wearying than endearing. And while Goode has shown sparks of promise in a number of roles — he played a charismatic thug in the Scott Frank thriller The Lookout and Colin Firth's lover in Tom Ford's A Single Man — he's treated as an afterthought here. His character is barely fleshed out; he exists only as an accessory for Adams — this is a case of man as handbag.
If only Leap Year were an anomaly, the kind of picture that comes along only once every four years. Instead, it's yet more evidence that romantic comedies are only getting worse. The genre needs a knight in shining armor, fast — someone who knows that great characters and dialogue, not diamonds, are a girl's best friend.
Rich in cliché and brimming with the sort of potent idiocy that can only be found in January-release romantic comedies, Leap Year manages to do every possible thing wrong. It's riddled with stereotypes and improbabilities and — taking a page from the dreadful Renée Zellweger/Harry Connick Jr. debacle New in Town — asks us to believe an unpleasant, materialistic, self-centered yuppie will suddenly transform into a loving, caring individual if only she can spend time with a handsome salt-of-the-earth, blue-collar guy. Because, you know, poverty is so much more authentic than being able to pay your bills. Such a paradox — movies like Leap Year disdain affluent white Americans even though they're frequently made by and for . . . well, you get the idea.
Leap year comes only once every four years. But if the new romantic comedy of the same name looks like something you just saw, you're not imagining things. The film — about a rich, neurotic New York woman who falls for a surly rube en route to a romantic rendezvous with her jerk boyfriend — is a retread of just about every rom-com cliche ever turned. Remember New in Town (release date Jan. 30, 2009)? It's the same darn movie. And they both stink.
What makes Leap Year so singularly dispiriting is precisely that it is bad without distinction - so witless, charmless and unimaginative that it can be described as a movie only in a strictly technical sense. And what is disconcerting about this sorry state of affairs is that the director, Anand Tucker, is hardly a hack, having done good and varied work in Shopgirl, "When Did You Last See Your Father?" and his portion of the soon-to-be-released Red Riding trilogy. The stars too - Amy Adams and Matthew Goode - have plenty of talent and appeal.
Their initial antagonism might be promising - hostility is often the catalyst for romantic-comedy bliss - if either one did or said anything funny, clever, provocative or even slightly memorable. Instead there are exchanges like the following, on the subject of the supposed tradition that gives this movie its title. Declan: "It's a load of poo." Anna: "No it isn't. It's romantic." Much as one hates to contradict a lady, the gentleman has a point.