In real life, romance is complicated in an entirely different way. The act of bringing together two people with different lives, histories and plans for the future is never an easy thing, and there are usually all kinds of tension, readjustments, and outright fights as they figure out how to fit with each other. They’re subtler (and therefore much harder to film) than someone making it to the airport just a few seconds too late, but to me at least they come much closer to a genuine love story.
“Leap Year,” the new romantic comedy starring Amy Adams, comes the closest to celebrating those second kinds of complications than any I’ve seen in a long time.
Sure, it’s more predictable than reality – you know they’re going to end up together from the moment you step into the theater – but I think we all want love to end up happily. If we didn’t, more of us would be going to see independent films.
The one flaw in this film is the point most highlighted in the trailers - Adams, after four years of not being proposed to by a boyfriend who feels no need to change the status of the relationship, flies hurriedly to Ireland so she can follow their “tradition” of women proposing to men on Leap Day (Feb. 29). It is, admittedly, ridiculous - as many have pointed out, women can propose to men whenever they feel like it - but Adams lets us see the character’s wounded heart clearly enough to accept the fact that she needs this kind of outside justification in order to deal with the fact that she’ll have to be the one to propose.
Besides, the entire “Leap Day” tradition thing is more of a kickoff than anything else, with the entire purpose of simply getting her character to Ireland and in a hurry to get to Dublin. And, most important, into the life of Matthew Goode’s cynical Irish barkeeper.
The two have entirely different philosophies of life, each perfectly reasonable given their life experiences up to this point. And like many wildly different people, they drive each other nuts on sight.
Their agreement to drive to Dublin is purely practical on both sides, and does nothing to lessen their desire to throttle each other during a road trip just believably disastrous enough to stay on the funny edge of possible. (Luckily, my own car has never rolled backwards down a hill, but I’ve heard enough stories from friends to be quite grateful for my parking brake.)
Over the course of the trip, however, they actually get to know each other. They learn to understand why the other person is the way they are, have quiet moments where they realize that they enjoy just being in the other person’s company, and even start to bend in the other’s direction in an effort to meet in the middle.
They’re attracted, as anyone sane would be when they’re in a pairing as attractive as these two, but it’s kept to an itch rather than that instant, overwhelming swamp of lust that seems a common element in the lives of movie characters.
Of course, this is a movie, so they do this all via nicely sweet and snappy dialogue. Since most of us wish we could talk this way in real life, however, I’m certainly not going to argue against it. The duo also provide some nice laughs, from the more dramatic incident with the car, to something as simple as the expression on Goode’s face when he’s begging Adams not to make him sleep in the shower.
All in all, they’re the kind of giggles you might get as you listen to a friend recounting a particularly funny story that had happened to them.
And, if it’s a love story as sweet as this one, so much the better.