Month: June 2013

Leap Year


I shouldn’t like this movie as much as I do. It teeters precariously on an absurd premise and cobbles embarrassing stereotypes that work best with American cruise ship audiences bound for Ireland (I’m talking to you, Mom). But Amy Adams and Matthew Goode do that thing where they charm you into believing, if only for ninety minutes, that a girl can bump into a gorgeously single pub owner who will shepherd her across the country and that, despite their initial animosity, they will fall perfectly in love.

And isn’t that the definition of a successful romantic comedy? You can forgive certain transgressions, Anna’s (Adams) reason for traveling from Boston to Ireland, for example. She expects a proposal from her long-term boyfriend, but when she doesn’t get her ring and he flies off to Dublin for a cardiologists’ conference, she decides to take her chances on ‘an old Irish tradition’. Having confirmed this superstition with Google, she believes that a man must accept a proposal if a woman asks on February 29. For once, meeting an anonymous radio call-in guest at top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day sounds reasonable.

You might also overlook the series of unfortunate events that threatens Anna’s itinerary. She gets delayed, rerouted, and stranded – and that’s before she even meets Declan (Goode), said pub owner. He agrees to taxi her to Dublin only because he needs a tidy sum to save his business from closure.

Their journey rests in the very capable hands of Adams and Goode. While the Irish countryside gets a strong supporting role, the couple squeeze every ounce charm out of a routine script. The enigmatic Adams somehow projects an Anna who is commanding but insecure, smug yet winsome. It’s not her cleanest performance, but she articulates insults and sympathy with such bewitching sweetness. To hell with consistency.

Nor is Matthew Goode wasted. He may be more effective in weightier fare (A Single Man, Brideshead Revisited), but he is an able romantic lead. He neither overshadows his partner nor recedes into the background. His Declan looks and feels like he’s been hand washed a few times, a suitable contrast to both the perfectly coiffed Anna and her dry cleaned fiancé.

So yes, what I’m saying is, sometimes all we want is a little scruff to warm our hearts.


Released: 2010
Prod: Gary Barber, Chris Bender, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman, Jake Weiner
Dir: Anand Tucker
Writer: Harry Elfont, Deborah Kaplan
Cast: Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott, John Lithgow, Kaitlin Olson
Time: 100 min
Lang: English
Country: United States
Reviewed: 2013

Love’s Kitchen


As lifeless as a deflated soufflé…blander than boiled cabbage…plainer than white rice…zero Michelin stars. It’s dull, stale, tedious, vapid. Do not consume.

And, despite warnings, I did. At first glance, the movie does not seem any more contrived than every other romantic comedy. Top chef’s wife dies in a car accident, he loses his Midas touch, locks horns with a feisty restaurant critic, resurrects his career at a village pub, finally wins critic’s heart. And he has a cute kid.

But for all the love and food and Gordon Ramsay in this ninety minute exercise, it is entirely bereft of soul. One wonders if real-life pair Dougray Scott and Claire Forlani, as leads Rob and Kate, have exhausted all their passion off-screen. They bring surprisingly little chemistry to their roles, and their pre-coupling quarrels have the sharpness of dueling feather dusters. They certainly aren’t aided by their supporting cast whose main task, judging by the insipid dialogue, is to fill up space.

Perhaps most unfortunate in a movie about love in kitchens is the utter lack of food porn. My Facebook feed has more enticing pictures. Not one juicy image of ‘quails eggs on a bed of shredded leeks, Scottish smoked salmon, lightly pickled cucumber and oatcakes’ or that orgasmic trifle that seduces all the characters. The most delectable dish was instead a rubbery cheese wrapped sole, eyes intact.

There are two saving graces to this movie though. One is Simon Callow, who plays a drunk food critic on the telly. He chews and smacks and sloshes his way deliciously through his scenes, and one hopes he was actually drunk during filming.

The second concerns my own culinary education. I discovered ‘trifle’, as in my part of the world, our epicurean tastes don’t generally extend beyond powdered pudding, which I much prefer to this movie.

Released: 2011 Prod: Crispin Manson Dir: James Hacking Writer: James Hacking Cast: Dougray Scott, Claire Forlani, Lee Boardman, Michelle Ryan, Matthew Clancy, Holly Gibbs, Gordon Ramsay, Simon Callow, Peter Bowles, Cherie Lunghi Time: 93 min Lang: English Country: United Kingdom Reviewed: 2013

The Decoy Bride

Decoy Bride

‘Enchanting’ is entirely appropriate when speaking of Kelly Macdonald, even – or especially – when she appears in below average romantic comedies. She stars as Katie, a woman who retreats to her island home upon encountering quarterlife doldrums. Having gone ‘man vegan’ and resigned from her job as a writer for a menswear catalog, she is quickly commissioned to write a guidebook to her forgotten town.

Only Hegg, pop. 75, is not so neglected. It is the setting of novelist James Arber’s (David Tennant) magnum opus, The Ornithologist’s Wife, and he is due to marry international film star Lara Tyler (Alice Eve). Relentless press coverage forces the couple and their publicity team (Michael Urie and Sally Phillips) to escape the city, and they head to the sleepy island while disguised as marketing conference attendees.

In short order, Katie and James have an awkward run-in at a disused loo, Lara spies a tenacious paparazzo and goes AWOL, and Lara’s jumpy handlers recruit Katie as the decoy bride (!). But romantic comedy hell breaks loose when a tabloid army descends on Hegg. The fake couple gets trapped in a castle and then nearly drowns trying to escape. Lara, meanwhile, discovers Katie’s ill mother milking the media for extra cash.

While the requisite elements are in order, the sum of this movie falls short of the Richard Curtis benchmark. There is, admittedly, added value in seeing David Tennant draped in fur and harvest gold paisley and traipsing the island as ‘Lord of the Bagpipes’, but James is hardly a compelling hero. (The Ornithologist’s Wife?!) The real gem is Macdonald, and she makes The Decoy Bride worthy of some cupcakes and a bottle of wine on a lazy Saturday night. Characters brighten or fade in relation to shared screentime with her. Katie is not the desperate quirk, and she won’t get the guy just because she says embarrassing things that he mistakes for being adorable. Instead, she has that charming and underused quality, in movies, of sober self-awareness.


Released: 2012
Prod: Robert Bernstein, Douglas Rae, Paul Ritchie
Dir: Sheree Folkson
Writer: Neil Jaworski, Sally Phillips
Cast: Kelly Macdonald, David Tennant, Alice Eve, Hamish Clark, James Fleet, Dylan Moran, Sally Phillips, Michael Urie
Time: 89 min
Lang: English
Country: United Kingdom
Reviewed: 2013