Ah, the road-mance. A man and a woman in mutual hate are trapped in a car together for a long road trip. One of the pair is likely engaged and en route to see the intended. Car problems, bad weather, a herd of animals, creepy hitch-hikers, and a night spent stuck with the road-trip companion in the one hotel room still available all conspire against their timely arrival and threaten the foundations of the long-distance relationship.
Anyone familiar with this romantic comedy sub-genre knows that as the miles pass, so will this traveling duo's animosity. This whole formula works well enough as long as we get well-developed characters with good love/hate chemistry and some interesting plot twists. Sadly, we don't get any of that in Leap Year.
What we get is Anna (Amy Adams), a professional property stager (she makes homes on the market look cozy and irresistible to potential buyers), who's disappointed when her boyfriend of four years gives her diamond earrings instead of a diamond ring for her birthday. So close and yet so far. Her boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) is a cardiologist, and together they're all dueling Blackberries and WASPy cuteness.
When Jeremy heads to Dublin for a cardiology convention, Anna takes inspiration from family folklore (apparently Grandma Jane popped the question to Grandpa) and some Irish tradition that says women can propose on February 29. How convenient that it's a leap year! And February! And that Jeremy will still be in Dublin on the 29th!
But Anna's flight to Dublin is rerouted to Wales due to a horrible storm. She's able to catch a ferry to Ireland, but that too gets rerouted by the torrential rains and gale-force winds. She winds up in a tiny Irish town, where she finds a strapped-for-cash pub owner who's willing to drive her across his fair country for a fistful of money. And wouldn't you know that this driver, Declan (Matthew Goode), is also single and attractive?
True to form, Anna and Declan hate each other at first. She's a high-heeled, high-maintenance, uber-planned, neat freak. He's a scruffy, belching, slob of a man who flies by the seat of his pants. So they climb in his tiny and sad excuse for a car and set out for Dublin.
They're not even ten minutes out of town when the clichés begin. We get most of the road-mance material and lots from the chick-flick playbook as well. For example, in the midst of an argument, Anna throws something of Declan's out the car window. Then her designer luggage gets stolen. And of course a herd of cows appears instantly on the one-lane road in front of them. It makes perfect sense that these cows would need to stand around and rest for a while after sprinting into the road. And those three-inch heels Anna's been clomping around in since the start of the movie? Yes, they land in a pile of cow poo.
While she's seething and cleaning off her Jimmy Choos, the car rolls backwards down a hill and lands in a small pond. So Anna and Declan walk to a train station, where they miss the one train headed to Dublin that day by mere minutes. They also get caught in a rainstorm. And then find a quaint bed and breakfast with conservative owners who'll only rent their one available room to them if they think Anna and Declan are married. So they have to shack up and pretend they're in love.
Even with all this, the movie might have worked with winning characters and good chemistry. But sadly, no. Anna and Declan are such one-dimensional stereotypes. She's the uptight yuppie. He's the overgrown man-child. We get too much jerk behavior and only tiny hints of likeableness and chemistry. Watching Amy Adams try her best in this formulaic disappointment is like watching a good friend date a loser. You want to pull her aside and say in reassuring tones, "Oh honey, you can do so much better."
By the time Anna and Declan finally make it to Dublin and she has to choose between her fellow uptight yuppie and the overgrown man-child, I really don't care. Either way we know the ending will have predictability, cuteness, and an attractive smiling couple. For die-hard romantic comedy fans, this all just might be enough. For the rest of us, we're just glad leap year only happens every four years.Discussion starters
- Do you think Anna chose wisely at the end of the film? Why or why not?
- Why don't you think Jeremy had popped the question to Anna yet? Does this say anything about their relationship?
- At one point in the film, Declan talks about what he'd take from his home if it were on fire and he had only 60 seconds to grab something. What would you grab in that situation? Why?
The Family CornerFor parents to consider
Leap Year is rated PG for sensuality and language. The language is mostly by some crusty old Irish guys in a pub. It's infrequent and fairly mild. We see Amy Adams in her undies a couple of times. At the outset of the movie, unmarried Amy and Jeremy are moving in together. Amy and Declan sleep in the same bed, but nothing happens. Throughout the film, we never see anything more than some kissing.
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