I really don’t want to write this review. I’ve sat with it open ever since I got home from work and I’ve not managed to come up with anything. If I’m honest, I never actually wanted to watch this fucking film. I mean Man of Steel was just dreadful and proved that Zac Snyder really should have called it quits on comic book movies after Watchmen was only hated by a handful of people. Those of you who were around at the time of my review of the first of Snyder’s Superman films will remember that, aside from it being badly written and really fucking long, it wasn’t exactly complimentary. I just didn’t get Snyder’s vision for the most popular alien in the DCEU. Still, those photos of Ben Affleck looking super buff got me interested and I finally decided it was time to watch it. I was a big fan of the Batffleck before watching this film so it would be just like Snyder to fuck that up for me too. I decided it was right to watch the Ultimate Edition and, after a gruelling day at work, I sat down for a gruelling 3 hours of muted tones, smack you in the face symbolism, and terrible parts for women. Classic Snyds.
So this Monday was a leap day. That one day a year where people push that outdated and sexist idea that a woman can only propose on the 29th Februrary. It’s an ancient tradition for all those females desperate to get married but too embarrassed to get down on one knee. They have one legitimate chance every four years to propose to their man. What a wild fucking idea. I don’t want to get all ranty in this post but it’s a fucking joke. All of Monday my male colleagues made continuous jokes about the idea of women finally getting the chance to lock down their man. It was embarrassing. Why are we keeping alive a tradition that perpetuates the idea that it is a man who is in control of a woman’s future? That it’s shameful for a woman to propose unless it’s on a date that comes around as frequently as the fucking Olympics. If you want to get married but you’re not getting a proposal then fucking do it. Who gives a shit if it was normally the man’s role? So was being a doctor back in the day. Things change.
Anyway, as you can see I’m a bit sensitive about the whole thing so the idea of a film based on this outdated ritual wasn’t high on my list of films I need to watch. Still, I needed a topic for this week and I do adore Matthew Goode… especially when he’s pretending to be Irish. So I sucked it up and watched Leap Year for the first time. Now, there’s a lot of shit I’d watch if it starred Matthew Goode, and I probably have watched a lot, but it was tough with Leap Year. It’s possibly one of the most cliched romantic-comedy around. Even if it believes it’s subverting the genre by invoking an ancient tradition.
Amy Adams plays Anna, a controlling career woman who has her five year plan in place and will do anything to get what she wants. She’s got the perfect job, will soon have the perfect apartment, and has the dreamy doctor boyfriend, Jeremy (Adam Scott). Everything seems ideal, except for the fact that Jeremy won’t propose. After he fails to pop the question yet again, Anna decides it’s time to do something dramatic. That something is follow him to Dublin and propose on February 29th. If you feel this is an extreme reaction then we’re already on the same wavelength. Had she just been honest with him she could have saved herself the price of a plane ticket.
Still, this is a romantic-comedy and honesty fucks up the chance to mess with out main character. Unsurprisingly Anna doesn’t manage to get to Dublin without a few issues. She finds herself stranded in Cardiff, on a fishing boat in a storm and finally in a distant Irish village in the middle of nowhere. It is there, though, that she meets ruggedly handsome and permanently annoyed pup owner Decalan (Matthew Goode). As he’s the face that joins Adams on the poster, we all know where the plot is going but there are a few things we have to check off first.
Declan promises to drive Anna to Dublin in exchange for some much needed cash. Again, it’s not that simple, They experience a kine of cows in the road, a missed train, the need to pretend to be a married couple and share a bed, and crash a wedding. It’s standard rom-com fair that is just putting off the inevitable for a little longer. By the time the pair get to Dublin it’s painfully obvious to everyone what will happen; well everyone except poor Jeremy.
There is so much to hate about Leap Year that I don’t have time to write it all down. Firstly, the representation of the Irish is almost reaching hate crime levels. It’s such a fucking stereotypical view of rural Irish folks that I’m surprised this film is still allowed to be shown. Secondly, Matthew Goode’s Irish accent is, unfortunately, pretty dodgy. I want to love Irish Goode but it’s hard. Thirdly, there is the overuse of bad green screen. It’s not big or clever. It’s just painfully obvious and distracting. Urgh, enough of this,
To sum things up, Leap Year is boring, recycled, unfunny and offensive romantic-comedy. The only thing that kept me watching until the end? Amy Adams and Matthew Goode are both so fucking adorable and charismatic that I was actually rooting for them. Despite the fact I knew they were destined to be together. I didn’t want it to happen but I actually cared about these stupid fuckers. I wanted to watch their journey even though I knew it off-by-heart. If Leap Year tells us anything it’s that Amy Adams is such an amazing actress that she can make any old garbage seem better than it is. That women deserves an Oscar for that alone. Neither actor overplays their part and have decent chemistry. Had anyone else been cast in the role I doubt this damp squib would have registered with anyone.
I’m not entirely sure whether or not I like David O. Russell. The celebrated writer and director has garnered quite a reputation for himself over the past four years thanks to his award-winning films The Fighter(2010) and Silver Lining’s Playbook(2012). Regular readers will know that I wasn’t exactly wowed by Russell’s supposed reinvention of the rom-com but I couldn’t deny it was of a much greater calibre than the usual Nicholas Sparks adaptation. However, with the still questionable talents of Bradley Cooper in the lead role I could never completely get on board with it. Regardless, the cast list and costume department had got me suitably interested in American Hustle for me to get over my apprehension.
Then we have the clutter of side-characters that have little effect on the plot and distract from the main points. Louis C.K. turns up as Richie’s disapproving boss but, after showing a great deal of promise, is completely wasted and sidelined. There is a moment when, in a fit of anger, Richie attacks his superior with a phone but this, like pretty much every complication that arises, ends up having no real consequences. There is a moment of confrontation but the incident of violence is shrugged off and forgotten about. You get the idea that, once the basic Abscam story was written down, Russel and co-writer Eric Warren Singer just stopped caring too much about what happened.
There is a face that people always make when you bring up Joaquin Phoenix’s name in conversation. Over the years the actor has built up quite a reputation for being wacky and abrasive. This is mainly thanks to his infamous appearance on The Late Show to promote his mockumentary I’m Still Here. Regardless of the way he has behaved in recent years, I still like Phoenix. He is a careful and considered actor who sometimes gets a little carried away with his roles. It takes a certain type of actor to basically front a film on his own and I was looking forward to seeing how Phoenix coped with it for Spike Jonze’s fourth film outing. So despite all of the groans I heard when discussing my excitement for this film, I couldn’t wait.
Spike Jonze is the kind of director who is known for creating worlds that show an uncanny relationship with reality whilst remaining ever so slightly bizarre and mystifying. (See Being John Malkovich and Adaptation for more proof.) In Her, Jonze goes one step further by tweaking a whole film genre. At its simplest layer, her is a romantic-comedy but following the emotional connection between a man and his computer. Jonze does a fantastic job of creating an unconventional movie romance that is funny yet heartbreaking, terribly sweet but utterly sincere.
technologically advanced haven, this is a society plagued by lonliness and Jonze makes it more than clear that Theodore isn’t alone in his emotional abyss. His friend and neighbour (Amy Adams) finds herself going through a divorce and ends up turning to her ex’s OS for friendship and support. This is a time in which technology offers a valid alternative to human contact. This film evaluates society’s dependence on technology and its deepening effect on modern relationships. Samantha may very well be a far-fetched idea but we see some familiar alternatives referenced on screen. In the earlier part of the film Theodore reaches out to the World Wide Web for companionship and partakes in cybersex with a woman who quickly turns out to be highly disturbed.
I work with a guy who is a fairly huge fan of Superman so I have had to contend with his excitement concerning Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel since its production was announced. With the release of every new trailer I was met with a gushing report of how it was set to be the best film ever made and, in the past few weeks, have been continually asked when the inevitable Blu-Ray release is. This is all very well and good but I found it difficult to match his excitement. As a child I loved the Christopher Reeve films and was a fan of the ‘I’m sure it was cool in the 90s’ Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman. However, as a superhero, I never really responded to Kal-El in the same way I did with other forces of good. The reason for this is simple: his parents. Clark, as an alien who receives strength from the Sun, has an immense advantage over other heroes. He isn’t making the same kind of sacrifice as people like Batman, Iron Man or Spider-Man. He also never seemed as easy to engage with as a character. He’s a bit too cheesy (yes I realise talking about cheesiness in terms of any superhero is somewhat ridiculous) in an All-American hero kind of way. It’s grating and, when he’s riding around on his insanely high horse, it’s difficult to see him let alone connect with him as a character. If I had to pick an almost indestructible, God-like alien for a friend it’d be Thor no question. He seems fun in a Nordic way, has a nifty hammer and is all beardy. Plus, his human form is a doctor whilst Clark Kent runs around playing a famous journalist. It’s all a bit too narcissistic for me. So by the time I finally got round to watching this supposed masterpiece I had my expectations set to ‘not stunned’.
There was a definite sense that Superman needed a revival that would breathe new life into the man in red and blue. There was room to bring Kal-El in line with the current trend for comic-book movies and have him grow up that little bit. If that meant roughening up the edges then director Zack Snyder and producer (and script contributor) Christopher Nolan weren’t going to take the softly softly approach. Nolan and Snyder aren’t exactly your typical film partnership and there is a sense that this film is battling with its two different attitudes. On the one hand it is the dark and moody tale of a man who must fight against his Kryptonian nature and his human sensibilities: who must pick between the destiny set-out for him by his dead biological father and the careful path his adoptive human father would have him follow. On the other, it is a fast, loud and brash tale of destruction and violence that would have even Michael Bay wondering “is this a bit much?”: in other words hard-core explosion porn. It is Nolan’s style that ends up suffering and the last hour or so ends up being mainly about Kal and his Kryptonian buddies destroying everything they come across.