Lucky for screenwriters requiring an easily marketable plot, there still remain a handful of calendar events cinema has so far left untapped. Many of the armed forces-centered holidays have yet to become the setting for slasher films and perhaps one day there will be a fizzy Sandra Bullock vehicle set on George Washington’s birthday. We can now take Leap Day off the market, though, since makers of the romantic comedies have deemed it a worthy enough excuse to dust off a handful of seriously dusty cliches.
Desperate for a proposal from her clearly indifferent boyfriend (Adam Scott), Anna (Amy Adams) decides to exploit a quirk in Irish tradition, wherein it’s deemed acceptable for a woman, as opposed to the man, to get down on bended knee on February 29. Her plan threatens to uncoil after a series of transportational hiccups deposit her in remotest (and prettiest) parts of Ireland.
There, she unwittingly employs the services of surly (but handsome!) inkeeper Declan (Matthew Goode), who reluctantly agrees to drive her to Dublin for the holiday. Will the trip entail unexpected bumps? Will these two opposites eventually attract?
The makers, including scribes Harry and Deborah Elfant (Can’t Hardly Wait), surely want you to think of Leap Year as It Happened One Night meets Powell and Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going!, which also features a woman racing to meet her betrothed and distracted by a love interest and a scenic UK locale (Scotland, in that case). They want you to think of this film as a throwback to an era of witty banter and archaic gender politics. And they would have gotten away with it, too, had their film actually had witty banter—or, really, anything to offer besides Amy Adams, an enjoyably miserable Goode and pretty, green scenery.
Frankly, even the former isn’t quite enough in this case. Adams is the current go-to thespian for playing keyed-up, borderline demented flibbertigibbits, but her career lately has been to render ill-developed roles partially tolerable through sheer grit. The only reason her half of Julie & Julia didn’t inspire widespread in-theater suicides is because of Adams’ heroic work. Like Anna Faris, she’s too often the bright spot of limp cinema. She may need to remind her agent that she was robbed of her Enchanted Oscar. But, hey, for at least a week, this is the best film of the new decade. C
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely