Leap Year – Annus Horriblis

13 March 2010

Katerina Webb-Bourne is unsurprised to see the cliches out in force in this insipid romantic comedy

Leap Year

1hr 37mins, PG


It is a shame that the marketing on this film was slightly unlucky and the film hasn’t come out on a leap year. However, the movie had the potential to be a fun and light bit of transatlantic rom-com fluff to lift spirits when we all find ourselves flagging toward the end of term.

Anna Brady (Amy Adams) is the all-American girl living the American dream: she has the perfect boyfriend and the perfect apartment lined up. There is just one thing missing – a ring on her finger.

When she doesn’t get the proposal she is expecting, she is prompted by an old Irish legend recounted by her father that on a leap year a woman can propose to her man. So she embarks on a journey to the Emerald Isle to surprise her boyfriend at a medical conference.

Along the way she encounters a few hiccups and forced to rely on the help of the enigmatic Declan, her taxi driver and road-trip buddy. A connection is forged between the two and Anna is left wondering if potential fiance Jeremy is the one?

This rom-com slightly more than echoes P.S. I Love You, as  the story still concerns a Yank from across the pond finding her feet in Ireland with the help of a slightly gruff, home-grown guy. Both films can be unfavourably compared, as Leap Year struggles to carve a distinctive niche for itself; it suffers from similar pitfalls of creating stereotypes out of the Irish and its American female lead.

The clichés roll on, one after the other, as we are reminded of what a backward place rural Ireland is supposed to be: they believe in leap-year proposals, black cats being unlucky and a trip to the local pub ends in a bar fight!

Director Anand Tucker fails to really push any comedic boundaries. Most of the opening jokes fall flat, as we are treated to yet another ditzy girl who is surprised when her boyfriend gets her a pair of earrings instead of a diamond ring. This is sharply followed by a supposedly hilarious and hastily concocted plan to travel to Ireland and surprise him. It is neither funny nor shocking when it goes less then smoothly.

The clumsy woman schtick has also been done before, and in many ways better in various other female led comedies. Indeed, so has the battle of the sexes; oh, so he’s another gruff, rough and grumpy Irish lead who secretly has a soft centre, and wait: she’s the organised, directed working woman who really needs saving. Really?!

All is not completely lost because around halfway through the movie picks up. The bare bones that make up the plot are fleshed out a little as we discover what drives the neurotic Anna: a layabout father who took all her money as child, and had the family home repossessed.

We also learn that Declan’s heart was hardened by a runaway fiancée. Still, the film is hardly ground breaking and original and the lack of laughs cannot cover these cracks.

The leads, Amy Adams and Matthew Goode, do have chemistry and once their barely concealed desire for each other develops, their journey together becomes altogether more enjoyable. The film revels in the fun side for a while as the characters develop in-jokes.

The writers create some realistic conversations, such as when Declan challenges Anna to name one thing she would save in a house fire. This is nicely referenced and brought back in the closing scenes when Anna sees the light and fiance Jeremy makes the wrong decision. Adams and Goode certainly have their hearts in the right place, even if his accent isn’t located anywhere close to Ireland.

At the close, the film appears also appears to find its heart and we are treated to a poignant (though totally expected) turning point as Anna discovers that perhaps her boyfriend and apartment are not so perfect, but then this revelation is spoiled by a corny resolution. The film tries to make a point about treasuring substance over style, however, Leap Year is too shallow to have either a truly emotional impact or invoke deep belly laughs. It’s an end of term filler flick.

Leap Year is now showing at Vue Cinemas.