By Leah Greenblatt
December 09, 2020 at 04:00 PM EST
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Credit: Kerry Brown/Bleecker Street

When the fiddle-happy trailer for John Patrick Shanley’s new Emerald Isle romance (in theaters and on demand Friday) was released last month the internet, as it is wont to do, weighed in. And oh, what a thyme it had; even the Dublin Airport’s official Twitter had something to say — faith and begorra, nothing good — about the movie’s questionable accents.

Dialect, it turns out, is not Wild Mountain Thyme’s strong suit; even, perplexingly, for the actual Irish people in the cast. (Jamie Dornan, what do they have on you?) But it almost seems churlish to single out one aspect of the film for unreality, when the whole thing is essentially one Riverdancing leprechaun short of a fairy tale. And when so many dangerous drinking games can be invented to accompany the rise and fall of Christopher Walken’s mystery brogue.

The Queens-born Walken, for reasons unknown, has been designated as the story’s narrator Tony Reilley, inveterate malarkey peddler and owner of a small farm whose dividing line has shared a disputed fence for decades with their neighbors the Muldoons. Tony also has a son, Anthony (Dornan), who has grown up alongside Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt), oblivious to her unrequited crush.

Why should the two most obscenely attractive people in their tiny rural hamlet, both single and of marrying age, be together when they can be kept apart by vague misunderstandings about schoolyard squabbles and property rights? Working from his own 2014 play Outside Mullingar, Shanley, the movie’s Pulitzer-, Tony-, and Oscar-winning creator (he took home an Academy Award in 1988 for penning Moonstruck) has allowed approximately 100 leisurely minutes of blarney and Kermit-green scenery to find out.

Rosemary, who seems to have access to a startling amount of high-end Anthropologie for a lovelorn farm lassie, is finally determined after all these years to find the courage to confess her true feelings to Anthony — If only he weren’t so distracted by his father’s stubborn refusal to pass the land down to him in his will, and his threat to anoint a distant American cousin (Jon Hamm, Don Draper-breezy and blessedly accent-free) instead.

She doesn’t realize that Anthony too is wracked by insecurities, having convinced himself that he’s unlovable and strange. (He talks to donkeys! He smells of cow!). But she does seem aware, on some level, of exactly what kind of blithely ridiculous movie she’s in — and so does the rest of the starry cast, who gamely follow the script’s strenuous Celtic whimsy to its (il)logical ends. By the time there are soaring pan flutes and kisses in the rain, you’ve either happily surrendered or slumped over, Walken-wasted. Either way somebody, or at least the whiskey, wins. Grade: B–

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