TBT – Leap Year (2010)

Amy Adams, films, fucking awful, Ireland, Matthew Goode, offensive, review, rom-com, TBT

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 That one day a year where people push that outdated and sexist idea that a woman can only propose on the 29th Februrary.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Anyway, as you can see I’m a bit sensitive about the whole thing so the idea of a film based on this outdated ritual wasn’t high on my list of films I need to watch.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.

’71 (2014)

history, Ireland, politics, review
It was a busy Saturday afternoon at work when my friend suddenly decided I was a suitable back-up plan for her evening. I was spared an evening of bowling failures (spared… geddit?) thanks to her raging hormones. We’d seen the trailer for ’71when we went to see TheRiot Club although our reactions to it were pretty different. Whilst I’d seen a historically and aesthetically interesting thriller, she saw an opportunity to stare at Jack O’Donnell for nearly 2 hours. Never mind, eh? I can think of worse reasons to sit in a dark room on a Saturday night. Plus, she’s been threatening to drag me to endless Zac Efron films for the last few years so I’m just too grateful when our interests overlap to really care why.

Yann Demange offers up a fantastic debut with ’71, a film set just before the most brutal year of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. Taking place in the year preceding Bloody Sunday, it’s safe to say the tension is rife: there are rifts between the British and Irish; the Catholic Nationalists and Protestant Loyalists; and between the different factions on each side.

Unfortunately for Private Gary Hook, he’s about to be thrown in at the deep end. Hook (Jack O’Connell) is a young man who joined the army in an attempt to escape his fairly dismal upbringing. However, rather than finding an easy path to honour in Germany, Hook is deployed to Belfast to get a handle on the increasingly shitty situation that’s unfolding.
Through a series of military oversights, Hook’s unit find themselves in one of the most dangerous areas in the city without adequate protection. The group are tasked with assisting the Royal Ulster Constabulary to carry out raids in Catholic residences. The situation soon gets out of hand and Hook is cut off from his fellow soldiers with pretty much everyone baying for his blood. He has to find his way home in an unfamiliar environment and weave his way through all of the double-crossing going on around him.
Gregory Burke ends up juggling a large number of balls throughout his screenplay, as he introduces people from all sides of the conflict, all of whom have their own agenda. Unfortunately, this means that there is little in the way of real character development and a certain amount of ambiguity clouding each of the plot-strands. At times the leap of faith required to accept that Hook would naturally fall into each camp at significant points is a bit much but Burke, building on the success of his stage show Black Watch, seems to have good enough ball-control to create a workable plot.
Of course, this could be helped by his decision not to bog down the film with any pesky socio-political context. For all the significance of the Troubles in ’71’s setting, the film doesn’t pretend to be any kind of historical document. Ignoring the documentary style of works like Paul Greengrass’ Bloody Sunday, ’71 is more like an action-horror film set in a specific context. The hows and whys are never discussed and Burke doesn’t attempt to make any judgements about the conflict as a whole. Instead, he tries, and for the most part succeeds, in painting a realistic yet vague portrait of the various attitudes in Ireland at the time.
This isn’t a film about the Irish Troubles but something that concerns itself with the reaction of an innocent outsider. Hook finds himself caught in the middle of a conflict he doesn’t have a hope of understanding. Demange doesn’t set out to teach us about such an important time in recent history but to put this young man in one of the shittest environments of recent years and see if he can survive.
What he managed to create led to one of the most tense cinema experiences I’ve ever had. Having just come off a hectic Saturday shift I wasn’t exactly in the right frame of mind for this survival thriller. I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so fucking stressed out by a film. Of course, this is the definitive mark that it’s doing its job properly. The story unfolds at break-neck speed and Demange has worked hard to ensure that every detail of this film helps to ramp up the tension. With production design turning modern day Liverpool into an almost alien version of 1970s Belfast, there is a real sense that Hook has wandered into the kind of post-apocalyptic nightmarish future that litters the FPS offerings in the games market these days.
There is never a moment for you to relax as Hook moves ever closer to the IRA stronghold that provides the setting for a dramatic final set piece. It is cinematographer Tat Radcliffe’s decision to switch between 16mm for the sequences that take place during the day and digital once the sun goes down that really help reflect Hook’s increasing vulnerability.
Of course, none of this tension would mean a damn thing if it weren’t for a noteworthy performance from leading man Jack O’Connell. Proving once again that he’s someone to watch out for, O’Connell brings charisma and strength to the young soldier that is perfectly offset by an underlying vulnerability that constantly reminds us that, underneath the uniform, he’s just a lost young man looking for a way home.
It’s just a crying shame that O’Connell isn’t given more to work with. Gary is, despite being on-screen for the nearly the entire 100 minute runtime, one of the most vague characters imaginable. With only a brief glimpse into his early life, you never get a sense of what Gary is about which means, after all the drama, you never get any kind of emotional or dramatic resolution. However, despite all of this frustrating ambiguity, ’71is a mesmerising film that goes to show it’s leading man, director and screenwriter all have great futures ahead of them.