2010 • 100 minutes • Universal Pictures
Really, the best way to review Leap Year would be to open up Irish pop culture blog Culch.ie’s review of the film and Jesse Hassenger’s review of The Perfect Match at the AV Club in different tabs, put them side by side, and cross your eyes. Unfortunately, I am told that this is bad for your eyesight by “science,” so I will do the best impersonation that I can.
Leap Year, for those of you who don’t hoard bad movies and spring them on your friends when the occasion rises, is a 2010 romantic “comedy” built on the Irish and British tradition of women only being able to propose on Leap Day. You see, according to Irish folklore, St. Brigid once asked St. Patrick if women could propose to their menfolk. St. Patrick said only on leap day, and St. Brigid, strangely, did not smack him in the face. (As a McBride, I must protest hotly at this portrayal of my eponymous saint—good St. Brigid was ten when St. Patrick died, so they were probably not hanging out a lot.) After Anna’s longtime boyfriend Jeremy fails to propose to her at an appropriate time (“where do you get off putting earrings in a RING BOX?!” I yelled at the computer screen) and heads off to Dublin for a medical convention, she decides to be spontaneous for once and chase after him to propose on Leap Day. Unfortunately, her flight gets redirected and she ends up in Dingle. Declan, owner of the local pub, offers to drive her to Dublin for a price.
Allan’s review of Culch.ie covers the bastardization of Ireland and Irish culture on display here, an entire country reduced to a charming, rural setting for pretty people to fall in love together against. The reason this review is legendary—I stumbled across it when the ever-fabulous film critic Helen O’Hara tweeted about it on Leap Day this year—is because Allan breaks down the geographic impossibilities of Anna and Declan’s journeys through Ireland (framed as Declan trying to con Anna out of yet more money). It is truly amazing what the screenwriters of Leap Year try to sneak by its audience, assuming that they will never care or even know what Ireland is shaped like. There’s suspension of disbelief, and then there’s Ireland as laid out in Leap Year.
The AV Club review of Perfect Match covers what a hollow approximation of a romantic comedy Leap Year is. I love a good romantic comedy—I have plenty of movies that I’ll watch because lovely actors I like make out in it. (I am a simple woman with simple tastes!) But Leap Year seems related to those romantic comedies only tangentially, focusing on the formula much more than the actual meat. You know exactly what kind of character Anna is—one of those perfectionist career women who seem to be a cautionary tale I’ve always had a little hankering to watch Leap Year because Amy Adams and Matthew Goode are exactly the kind of actors I would love to see make out in a film, but even these two, who are fine actors, can’t make gold out of dross. Anna and Declan argue bitterly and argue bitterly and—I guess they’re into each other now? But perhaps the best example of how robotic the film is would be Jeremy, Anna’s fiancé, played by Adam Scott. At the end of the film, Jeremy reveals himself to be a heartless bastard by blurting out the real reason he’s interested in Anna, but displays no remorse or understanding that saying this in front of her might be rude in some way. Because that would require character development for a supporting role.
Leap Year is not a legendarily bad film, just deeply forgettable and notable only for how nakedly it puts the tired bones of the romantic comedy formula on display. It’s just that whenever it seizes upon something good—the sweet couple who run the bed and breakfast Anna and Declan end up at, Sweet Dee herself Kaitlin Olson, and John Lithgow—it just kind of wastes it in favor of more unfunny shenanigans, like Anna and Declan crashing a wedding.
What most boggles my mind, however, is that there’s material in here to build a good romantic comedy out of. There’s a barely dealt with subplot about Declan potentially losing his pub. Upon his return to Dingle, his devoted customers pony up to cover the difference between what he owes and what he earned from ferrying Anna to Dublin. This movie could have been about Anna getting stuck in Dingle and falling in love with a community and a town instead of a fancy apartment (which would have been a cheaper film to produce!), instead of the hollow automaton of a romantic comedy that it is.
So, uh, go watch Imagine Me & You instead, a much better romantic comedy that also stars Matthew Goode (in a supporting role).
I watched this film on Netflix.