Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Leap Year

Genre: Romantic Comedy
Premise: A woman attempts to take advantage of a time-honored custom in Ireland that allows women to propose to men on Leap Year.
About: Matthew Goode (Watchmen) and Amy Adams (Doubt) are signed on to play the leads. The movie is being directed by Anand Tucker (Shopgirl). Kaplan and Elfont also wrote the little-known but underrated gem, "Can't Hardly Wait."
Writers: Deborah Kaplan & Harry Elfont

I love you Amy.

Yes, I like romantic comedies. Okay there, I said it. I'm not going to lie. The cat is out of the bag people so have your way with me. You know what I watched a month ago? A little movie called When Harry Met Sally. And afterwards? I may have shed a tear. That's right. Um-hmm. I may have. And I'm not going to feel bad about that because the reality is, when done right, romantic comedies make you believe in love again. The problem is, when done wrong? They're unmitigated disasters.

Leap Year caught my attention because it has two actors in it that I absolutely love. Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. If you don't know much about Goode, head over to your local video store tonight and rent "The Lookout" (also starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt). Goode's charasmatic yet deceitful character is the one that stands out in a film clearly designed to showcase Gordon-Levitt's talents. But Amy Adams? Well besides the fact that I want to marry her, she's memorable in just about everything she does. In Doubt, a movie with Meryl Freaking Streep and Phillip Seymour F'ing Hoffman, Adams, who plays the most reserved role of the three, holds her own in every single scene. And let me tell you honey. That ain't easy to do.

Amy Adams in a romantic comedy felt like a good fit. But I'll be honest, when I heard the premise for "Leap Year," I cringed. It sounded like it came out of the Romantic Comedy Logline Machine - a lumbering MRI-type contraption that can be found in the back of most studio offices. But, you know, Can't Hardly Wait was a damn funny movie, so I was willing to give Kaplan and Elfont a chance.

Anna, 30s, sweet but a little materialistic, stages apartments for a living. You know, one of those people that dresses up apartments so they look good for prospective buyers? She has the perfect boyfriend in cardiologist Steve (think Patrick Dempsey), who she's been together with for four years now, and it's looking like he's finally going to propose to her on their anniversary. But when he gives her a bracelet instead of a ring (hey, they're both round) and informs her he's heading off to Ireland on a business trip , Anna is devastated, and begins to question whether Steve will ever become her knight in shining armor.

Later that night, Anna's BFF sister jokingly tells her about an old Irish custom where every leap year day (February 29), women are allowed to propose to men. After laughing it off, Anna finds herself wikipediaing that shit and learnng that indeed, it is true (A little warning to all you men with girlfriends planning trips to Ireland). Anna, unable to avoid the tick-tock sound of her biological clock, throws caution into the Irish wind and decides to fly to Dublin to surprise her dear Steven with a marriage proposal!

As her 747 swoops in to Dublin however, wouldn't you know it but a huge storm rolls in and forces them to land in another city. Egads! With Leap Year day only a few days away, Anna, stuck in the Irish countryside, must find a way to Dublin in time to propose to Steven! (If you are a man, I applaud you for making it this far in the review. However, I cannot guarantee your safety from this point on).

Anna stumbles into a small Irish pub and pleads her sob story to anyone who will listen. But of course everyone's too drunk to care. Glaring at her from the shadows is Declan, the brooding yet unkempt innkeeper. Declan is so angry and bitter, you get the feeling he's going to walk out of the script at any moment, shrugging his shoulders and mumbling, "Why did I agree to this?" Unfortunately (wouldn't you know it!) Declan is the only one in the bar with a working car! When Anna offers him a boatload of money to take her to Dublin, even the defiant Declan can't decline.

How do you say, "You complete me" in Irish?

The script jumps into Travelogue mode as we drive, jog, hitchhike, and train through some of the most beautiful countryside in the world. Of course Anna and Declan don't enjoy a single moment of it because they absolutely despise each other.

For the first 60 pages, Leap Year was the most cliched, by-the-books, lazy, forced, unoriginal piece of crap I've read in awhile. The shameless female wish-fulfillment tale busts out all the romantic comedy stops. Do our characters hate each other more than anything? Check. Is one a rich American while the other a poor foreigner? Check. Are they placed in a situation where, even though they despise each other, they're forced to kiss? Check. Are they forced to sleep in the same bed at one point? Check check and CHECK! I could almost feel Blake Snyder's beat sheet breathing underneath this screenplay. At one point I wanted to murder Ireland.

And that premise. What the fuck is with that premise? Why would a woman travel to Ireland to propose to a man on Leap Year instead of, oh I don't know, TALKING TO HIM ABOUT IT IN AMERICA! We don't live in the stone age. If you're unhappy about something in your relationship, particularly something as big as marriage, YOU TALK ABOUT IT.

But then............something funny happened. Leap Year stopped trying so hard. It threw away the beat sheet and began allowing its characters to dictate the story. Gone were the cliche romantic comedy staples. Gone were the obvious set-pieces. All of a sudden, I felt like I was watching two living breathing human beings. I can't believe I'm saying this but I was smiling for the last 50 pages of Leap Year. You know why? Because it was just two people who liked each other that knew there was no way they could ever be together. And who can't identify with that? I identify with it every Saturday night (actually, I don't even know what that means).

So to sum up, Leap Year was a little like a pint of Guiness. Bitter at first, but smoother as the night goes on (ugh, now I'm the one trying too hard). If you're a romantic comedy fan, instead of watching Love, Actually for the 50th time, give Leap Year a read.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely kept my interest
[x] worth the read
[ ] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: The first act reeks of "trying too hard." All of the romantic comedy staples are stuffed down our throat. Audiences aren't dumb. They know when you're forcing things. You have to make your screenplay structure as invisible as possible. Hit the beats, but do so in a way that doesn't draw attention to itself.