The new Amy Adams-tumbles-down-an-Irish-hillside romantic comedy has racked up a slew of groaning reviews. The New York Times went so far as to call it the worst movie of our barely week-old year. (Our Owen Gleiberman gave it a B-). I went to the movie last night, and must confess that I found it rather endearing. Amy Adams, after playing such a churlish character (bloggers, right?!) in Julie & Julia, is the requisite role of uptight control freak who wants her stiff boyfriend to propose already after four years of dating. When he leaves on a business trip to Ireland, she chases after him to take advantage of an olde country tradition whereby a lass is granted the right to pop the question to her man on the titular day of leap year. I know, awful. (The thing is the movie itself, when approached with dangerously low expectations, is kind of winning. Adams’ character quickly finds herself sidelined with a surly yet stand-up bartender played by Matthew Goode and despite myself I was charmed by their predictable series of misadventures on the road to Dublin. I blame the cough syrup, and Goode’s fisherman’s sweater.)
But the premise itself of the movie should not be forgiven, or at least not its wretched trailer in which Adams practices her getting proposed face or screams on a turbulence-wracked airplane that “I am not going to die without getting engaged!” When will Hollywood drop this strangely clung-to cliche that a grown woman will always be reduced to needy brat when she gets a whiff of wedding cake? You want to know what was cute about Kimberly Williams in the movie Father of the Bride? Her character was a 22-year-old and she acted like one. Maybe young women her age still get silly and feverish about their fairy tale notions of weddings and marriage. Grown women don’t.
When was the last time you saw a grown woman shove her girlfriends out of the way to catch a wedding bouquet? (Oh that’s right, 27 Dresses. But you didn’t see it at your colleague’s wedding.) When did you last see two grown women cling so desperately to their childish fantasies of the perfect wedding that their friendship was torn apart as they fought over the same venue? (You saw it in the dastardly Bride Wars, but your sister-in-law the teacher and her college roommate the lawyer did not act like this.) Amy Adams is 35 years old. Her character in Leap Year is a successful businesswoman who values order and stability. (Successful businesswomen in movies are always uptight, but it usually only takes them a spin around a dance floor and a half a bottle of wine to cut loose. Of course that often ends up, as it did in Leap Year, with the woman humiliated, vomiting on a man’s shoes.) Adams’ character is neither a ninny nor a child. And yet the whole marketing campaign of the film boils down to the anachronistic notion that what a woman today really wants, what she will not in fact live without, is a rock on her finger. She wants that rock so bad, the movie tells us, and yet she can only risk asking for it herself once every four years in Ireland. If Adams doesn’t get to Dublin in time, she will have blown her one shot at making all her dreams come true. No wonder people hate this movie! (Except for me. Did I mention that Matthew Goode wears a pea coat?)
Why do I so rarely recognize the female characters in romantic comedies? My favorite wedding-centered movie is Four Weddings and a Funeral. And my favorite character from that movie was of course Fiona, a stern woman with a wicked tongue played by the divine Kristin Scott Thomas. Fiona loves Charles. Charles inexplicably loves that drippy Andie McDowell.
It was the rare wedding movie where a woman, even as Fiona was confessing her love to a man she knew she would never have, held on tight to her dignity. She didn’t dye Andie McDowell’s hair blue or get a bad spray tan or barf on the mother of the bride or tell Hugh Grant that she would die without him. She was beautiful and moving and poised. I would love to be friends with this woman. I am friends with this woman. I will never understand why Hugh Grant didn’t realize she was the best woman in the room. But I like to think Fiona was better off without him.
Did anybody else out there ignore the critics and see Leap Year or did the dopey trailer turn you too far off? What romantic comedy cliche most chaps your hide? Fiona or Carrie? Matthew Goode in a fisherman’s sweater or Matthew Goode shirtless shaving his beard?