Friday, January 08, 2010

Leap Year

LEAP YEAR (Anand Tucker, 2010)

Amy Adams tries to get the ultimate commitment from her longtime boyfriend in the romantic comedy LEAP YEAR. As hyper-organized Anna Brady, Adams gets her hopes up that her cardiologist boyfriend Jeremy (Adam Scott) will finally propose, but rather than getting an engagement ring, the tiny box he gives her contains just earrings.

Soon after Jeremy departs for a work conference in Dublin, Ireland. Luckily for Anna, the Irish have a tradition that reverses commonly accepted gender roles. On February 29, women can ask the men they love to marry them. There's even precedent for a woman in her own family to propose to a man in such a fashion.

Impetuously Anna takes off for the Emerald Isle with plans to ask Jeremy to be her husband, but the weather interferes with reaching her destination. Anna only gets to the small town of Dingle. There she meets Declan (Matthew Goode), a young, grouchy inn owner who agrees to drive her to Dublin for a princely sum. While neither intend for the arrangement to lead to anything beyond a business agreement, their bumpy Irish adventure draws them closer than either expects.

Although LEAP YEAR is contrived like mad, its mechanisms for putting love in motion are a little less artificially manufactured than what comes as standard equipment in most romantic comedies. The characters are bound in outlandish circumstances, but at least writers Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont attempt to make the set-ups seem organic according to movie logic. Nevertheless, the screenwriters paint themselves into a corner and concoct a badly flubbed ending that brings matters to a conventionally satisfactory conclusion but wholly unbelievable one.

Yet the charming performances of and chemistry between Adams and Goode help LEAP YEAR overcome all the forced narrative devices and blarney about whimsical Irish townsfolk and their customs. Adams exudes pluck and cheerful sincerity, and it's often funny to see her enthusiasm rub against the scruffy Goode's negative outlook. The tension between the characters is well-earned, and the understanding and affection that grows between them seems like a natural, if quick, offshoot of their time together.

For all their squabbling, there's a mutual respect underlining this relationship borne from necessity. Plus, as far as romantic comedies are concerned, if two people can disagree with the kind of electricity surging between Adams and Goode, they're destined for each other. LEAP YEAR is not constructed from the finest materials, but its two appealing lead actors make the most with what they're given to provide a sweet, breezy escape.

Grade: B-

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