© 2010 Ray Wong
Romantic comedies are like a loaf of bread. It may be familiar, but can also be hearty, comforting, delicious, and lovely. However, it can also become stale. Leap Year is like a day-old piece of bread. Even the poster is kind of stale (and green with mold).
Anna (Amy Adams) seems to have everything she wants: a good job (she stages apartments before they go on the market), a cardiologist boyfriend, and she's on the verge of getting the apartment of her dream. The only thing she's not satisfied with is after four years, Jeremy (Adam Scott) still hasn't proposed. Desperate, she takes to heart of her father's (John Lithgow) story of how her grandma proposed to her grandpa on February 29 -- the only day a woman could propose to a man. So she takes off to Dublin, where Jeremy is having a medical conference, in hopes of getting herself hitched.
Things don't really go her way, though. Her flight gets diverted to Wales and, due to weather, she has no way of reaching Dublin, until she meets Declan (Matthew Goode), an Irish man who owns a pub (and a taxi service!). Declan agrees to take Anna to Dublin for 500 Euros.
Unfortunately, the happy-go-lucky Declan and control-freak Anna don't really get along. She wants everything to go exactly as she plans, and of course she freaks out when they don't. He, on the other hand, is aloof and uninterested. He thinks her whole idea of proposing to her boyfriend is stupid; she thinks it's romantic. And through the few days they're stuck with each other, they discover they have more in common than they thought.
Amy Adams (Julie & Julia) is a good actress as she's proved in Enchanted or Doubt. In this film, however, she's playing another version of the whiny, annoying control freak she did in Julie & Julia. Her performance is somewhat one-note as well, and we don't really get to see enough of what Anna is really about, except during one scene in which she talks about her father. Matthew Goode (Watchmen) is an interesting alternative romantic lead: he's lanky, reserved, and gruff. He has a better time handling the role, however, and he successfully shows us the deep emotional scars (and the facade) of the character. Granted, Adams and Goode do look good together and they feel right as a couple.
Adam Scott (Step Brothers), as Anna's boyfriend, is sort of an Eric Bana-lite, and he has such a small role in the film that he can't really leave an impression. His character is neither good or bad, just not really quite there. I blame it on the screenwriters for not giving his part any depth, however. John Lithgow (Confession of a Shopaholic) is totally wasted as Anna's father. He has only one scene and a peripheral one at that: to tell the pivotal story of "leap year." This could be played by just about any older actor in the world, and Lithgow doesn't have the opportunity to add anything to it. The rest of the cast comprises of mostly Irish actors who do their job well with their minor characters.
The script by Deborah Kaplan (Made of Honor) and Harry Elfont (Made of Honor) is standard and predictable. They basically take a premise and make it into a road trip romance. Well, we've seen better in something like Romancing the Stones. Much of the story is very trite and contrived. The characters also are clichéd. I mean, hmmm, where have we seen this before? A controlling woman who's in a relationship with the wrong man, and a hero who is gruff and uninterested… Ah, we just saw The Proposal (which is a much better film than it seems) and The Ugly Truth. Give us something new already.
Granted, there are some genuinely funny moments, and that's what comedy is all about. Amy Adams and Matthew Goode also work well together, and they have some good bickering scenes. But in general, the story is too derivative and offers little surprises. Also, the leading characters and relationship between them are not well developed enough -- we don't fully buy that they will fall in love in just three days. Certain plot elements stretch credibility. The ending does not work for me, for it's too clichéd and wishful-thinking. A more realistic ending would have served the movie better.
Anand Tucker (Shopgirl) is adequate in directing the film. The location shots are gorgeous and the pacing is brisk. I'd rather he spends more time with the character development, though, instead of getting them from one mayhem to another, but that blame lies squarely on the screenwriters. There's really nothing special about his direction, however. I'd say, he earns his keep by giving us what we expect from the material.
I love romantic comedies (when they're done right -- I just watched Serendipity again and that was a good one), but I wish they would stop doling them out like candy, with the same trite plot and cookie-cutter characters. One such movie every leap year is enough.
Stars: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott, John Lithgow
Director: Anand Tucker
Writers: Deborah Kaplan, Harry Elfont
MPAA Rating: PG for sensuality, language
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 6
Cinematography – 8
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total – 6.8 out of 10