Thursday, November 18, 2010

Almost Bad Enough To Make Me Want To Gouge Out My Eyes: Leap Year Flops.

The Good: Good scenery
The Bad: Light on DVD bonus features, Utterly predictable plot, Unlikable characters, Mediocre-at-best acting.
The Basics: A movie where its down-the-line averageness strangles the film, Leap Year is a dull, predictable, uninspired, loathsome romance.

It always freaks me out some when a movie goes very quickly from the theaters to DVD. I learned about Leap Year when I was at the movie theater watching Valentine's Day (click here for my review!) and by the time I heard that it was in theaters, it was headed out of my local theaters. So, when my local library got in the DVD, I decided I had to see if it was a movie that just didn't catch on with the mainstream or if it was truly bad. My verdict now that I've seen it: Leap Year is just terrible.

Watching Leap Year last night, I was caught by a remarkably uncomfortable sensation that I had seen everything in this movie before. In fact, I had and this movie was insulting not only to my sensibilities as a writer (there is something truly tragic in that TWO writers - Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont - came up with nothing original to say), but my sensibilities as a liberal watching a movie that tried to make a woman proposing to a man into an extraordinary thing. Welcome to the new millennium, it's not a novelty for a woman to go after what she wants instead of waiting for it to fall into her lap! Leap Year, alas, is tragically out-of-date and while it might have a charming nostalgic quality and be family friendly, its averageness is utterly stifling.

Anna Brady is an apartment modeler, helping others sell apartments by furnishing them for their showings, who has been in a relationship with her boyfriend, Jeremy for four years. When her gossipy best friend intimates that Jeremy is about to propose, Anna is thrilled, only to be disappointed when Jeremy gives her a pair of diamond earrings. When Jeremy goes off to Ireland for a trip, a visit with her father inspires Anna to follow him and propose on February 29. Unfortunately for her, Anna's plane is grounded in Wales and Anna must get to Dublin by Leap Day.

What follows is Anna's adventure with Declan, a down-on-his-luck bartender whose bar is about to be repossessed. Declan agrees to take Anna to Dublin for five hundred euros, but the car he is taking her in breaks down a short time later. Through a series of misadventures, including having her luggage stolen by hooligans, a bar fight, missing a train due to visiting a nearby castle, and having to stay at the train ticket-seller's house, Anna and Declan begin to grow close. After crashing a wedding, Anna ends up in Dublin with a very hard choice to make.

Leap Year is just offensive for its simplicity. Everything in the movie is obvious, at least to anyone who has seen a romance before. So, for example, when Anna arrives at the bar where she is trying to get a ride to Dublin, my wife instantly sat up and said, "Whoever's the scruffy-looking guy with blue eyes is it." That would be the bartender, to a "t." I felt stupid for a moment when I said, "No, it has to be whomever drives her to Dublin." We were both right and the gag where Declan leaves the bar to answer the phone fooled neither of us. This is a movie where one need not even see the trailer to be able to call the end; one need only look at the casting.

Leap Year's premise is more frightfully conservative than it is actually romantic. Anna is a spoiled brat in the beginning whose life is high style and, aww, poor her, she hasn't been proposed to! Perhaps if she wasn't so vacuous and monolithic, she would have been. But no, she wanders through her life expecting Jeremy to propose and expect every door to be opened for her by proper gentlemen. The entire hundred minute waste of time that is this movie could have been avoided were Anna only to have sucked it up at the beginning, been honest with Jeremy about her own desire to be married and proposed to him in the U.S. As it is, the whole trip to Ireland feels contrived and it is a cheap excuse to fill the movie with beautiful scenery but little substance.

The character arcs are as predictable as the casting is obvious. What is especially troubling is the underlying message which keeps coming through in movies like Leap Year: which is that women should not settle for men who do not treat them like they want to be treated, but that men ought to. It is That Kind Of Movie and like many, many romantic movies of late, the female protagonist is preparing to marry one man when a "better option" comes along who offers her a sense of adventure she is not feeling in her primary relationship. This is played out somewhat ridiculously in Leap Year, as Anna is not an adventurous person, so why she softens to Declan other than plot convenience does not feel right. But in creating this new feminine ideal where Man #2 comes in a sweeps Damsel In Distress off her feet (because, we are taught by movies like this, stability and success are no longer ideal for relationships, but adventure is), writers like Kaplan and Elfont completely neglect what this says about men. Anna goes through all sorts of personal hells trying to get to Jeremy. If she leaves Jeremy for Declan, Declan is always going to have the nagging suspicion that he was just a second choice, an attainable partner instead of the one Anna actually wants to be with. In other words, Leap Year fosters the ridiculous idea that women should not settle for what is right in front of them, but men should.

The lack of originality in Leap Year continues through the acting. Adam Scott (Jeremy) is generic good guy, John Lithgow's cameo as Anna's father is an almost pointless waste of his talents, and Matthew Goode is so generically the "good bad boy" that the director could not have made it more obvious by pinning a sign on the actor. While Amy Adams usually delivers interesting performances, in Leap Year she is simply channeling Isla Fisher and she comes across as far more bratty than assertive in this role.

Leap Year does have one decent callback, near the end when Anna tests something she and Declan talk about on their journey. It was almost enough for me to consider rating this a little higher, but then I realized that single moment was built around ninety-nine minutes of visual fluff. It is not worth it.

On DVD, Leap Year comes with a handful of deleted scenes which make the movie no better and the disc opens with previews to other movies (including, inexplicably enough, the animated film Despicable Me). Even for a romantic movie, this is pretty light on the bonus features.

Ultimately, what Leap Year did most for me was hate Letters To Juliet (click here for my review!) even more. The plots of both movies are virtually identical and the only advantage Leap Year actually has is that it beat the other romantic movie to market. That still does not make it better.

For other romance movies, please check out my reviews of:
The Proposal
Remember Me
The Spitfire Grill


For more film reviews, please click here to visit my index page!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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