MCN Columnists
Mike Wilmington

By Mike Wilmington

Wilmington on Movies: Leap Year, The Sun

Leap Year (Two and a Half Stars)
U.S.-U.K.: Anand Tucker

Leap Year — in which Amy Adams learns that a bad-tempered Irishman who runs a tavern/hotel is in many ways preferable to a smooth-talking Boston cardiologist with a Blackberry — is a sweet-natured picaresque romantic comedy blessed with spectacular Irish scenery and cursed with the usual niggling, cliché-ridden script problems.The scenery is often entrancing and so is Adams. Here, she plays a Boston apartment designer, Anna, who’s trying to get to Dublin by Feb. 20, Leap Year, so she can propose to smugly good-natured cardiologist Jeremy (Adam Scott), a self-absorbed operator who’s kept her on the hook for four years without popping a question. But, thanks to inclement weather and train problems, Anna has to undergo instead a nervous but highly picturesque tour of Wales and Ireland, walking, hitching or hiring a ferryboat, or employing cute but surly cab driver-pub owner Declan (Matthew Goode) to get from Cardiff to Dingle to Dublin by Feb. 29. Along the way, the ill-tempered, seemingly ill-matched couple of over-anal Anna and city-hating Declan — surprise! — takes the old It Happened One Night road, and pass from sniping and slamming at each other, to sharing a bedroom and falling in love.

The script’s flaws, which include the usual ratio of stale chestnuts and lapses in logic, mostly involve remarkable and even maddening dysfunctions and bad judgment in the couple’s travel strategies. But they’re not fatal, at least if you’re in an Amy Adams sort of mood. With her big warming smile and genuinely sparkly and crush-inducing gazes, she’s an actress who tends to pulverize grouchy disbelief — and Goode makes her a good, gangling, brogue-sporting romantic teammate. Many of the movie’s flaws are solved, at least a little, by Adams’s meltingly lovely eyes and her game gift for self-kidding slapstick and by the outward cynicism and inner boyish charm, of Goode.

Whatever is most appealing about Leap Year comes from this pair and the countryside around them, a landscape presented in eye-catching tableaux that suggest The Quiet Man re-shot by David Lean and Freddie Young. That all means that Leap Year is cast and directed well, but not so smartly-written, par for the over-dressed course in many modern romantic comedies, especially the ones about marriage.

So, when the trip has barely started, Anna tosses Declan’s sandwich and favorite tape out the car-window, leans on the car when it’s stopped by a seemingly immovable herd of cows and sends it careening down a hill and into a bog — whereupon the couple abandon the vehicle, wander through scenic castles, miss their train, forget to ask their bed and breakfast hosts about getting to Dublin, and otherwise keep thoroughly sabotaging their own trip.

Now, mind you, fiascos like all these are, in some measure, the actual driving engine of this kind of travelogue-ish romantic comedy. And one could even argue that Anna and Declan’s subconscious minds, already smitten with each other, are messing things up precisely to keep Anna from Jeremy. Well and Goode. But as smart as this twosome is supposed to be, you begin after a while to marvel at their constant ineptitude at the simplest things: at driving up a hill, for example, or leaning on a car or catching a train or dancing at a wedding without beaning the bride. The trick of comedy is to make the illogical seem inevitable. Leap Year often doesn’t. (By the way, isn’t the leap year proposal “tradition” operative here too?)

Director Anand Tucker usually has better scripts. (He directed Hilary and Jackie and Shopgirl and produced Girl with a Pearl Earring.) Here, he’s helming a kitschy script by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont, whose Made of Honor had a similar plot: Patrick Dempsey lousing up a wedding in Scotland. Tucker shines it up some, though not all, of the time. The over-yuppied dialogue picks up early on, when John Lithgow (who knows how to transform lines) shows up for his one too-brief scene as Anna’s raffish father and gooses things up. (Lithgow could use one more scene, in which he expresses a qualm or two about what’s to come.) Adams mostly triumphs over her lines too, even when she runs into a priest on a plane (Ian McElhinny), who seems to have mastered all of Alec Guinness’s old distracted-whimsical expressions. She’s a cutie on a toot, and so, in his way, is Goode.

The movie suggests, not for the first time in an American romantic comedy, that rich guys with lots of ambition, slick haircuts and gifts of gab may ultimately be poor husband material, and that tall, scruffy, wisecrackers with natural charm and dreamy eyes are better bets. It also suggests that heart’s desire may be waiting back in Brigadoon, Brigadoon, or in the land of I Know Where I’m Going — or at least in Declan’s rural Irish barroom country, where the land is as green as an emerald and all the fuses can get blown if you try to charge up a Blackberry.

Meanwhile, let’s all raise a glass to Amy Adams, one lassie we’d really like to miss a train with.


The Sun (Four Stars)
Russia; Aleksandr Sokurov, 2005

Russia’s Aleksandr Sokurov is a great contemporary filmmaker with an interesting slant on tyranny — a cinematic obsession which may come from Sokurov’s experiences in the waning years of Communism. Sokurov sees dictatorship in its weird, mundane side (as in Moloch, about Hitler) and, in The Sun, about Japan’s Emperor Hirohito, he sees its sentimental, absurdly stylized aspect.

The movie is about how Emperor Hirohito (played by Issei Ogata) loses his Godhood as Japan falls, about his emergence from his mythic status as a royal deity; from his cloistered household and retinue of courtiers, servants and government ministers; and about his strange, ultimately momentous conversations with Japan’s sharp and somewhat theatrical conqueror Gen. Douglas MacArthur (played by Robert Dawson).

Hirohito lived far from the bloody tragedy of the war his ministers oversaw, and far from the sufferings of the common people, his subjects and for him to become human and socially harmless, and do what MacArthur wants, he has to renounce his supposedly Godlike estate. That he eventually does: a fussy, gentle-looking, detached little man who — as was often remarked at the time — looks a bit like Charlie Chaplin. (So did Hitler, as we are still reminded by The Great Dictator.)

In Sokurov’s 2002 masterpiece Russian Ark, he and his great cinematographer/Steadicam operator Tilman Buttner executed the greatest tracking shot in the history of movies: their film-long one-shot phantasmagorical tour through St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum, and through Russia’s history and culture. Here, in The Sun, which Sokurov shot himself, everything cinematic is simple, almost antique. The movie suggests a dimly colored curio rescued from the past, done discreetly, quietly, with an almost mystical calm, like a Japanese domestic drama of the ’30s by Ozu, Naruse or Shimizu. While we watch a tyrant and a God falls — but it’s only a sad shy little mustached man, not even Charlie. (Chicago, Gene Siskel Center.)

– Michael Wilmington
January 7, 2010

Comments are closed.


awesome stuff. OK I would like to contribute as well by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to modify. check it out at All custom premade files, many of them totally free to get. Also, check out Dow on: Wilmington on DVDs: How to Train Your Dragon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Darjeeling Limited, The Films of Nikita Mikhalkov, The Hangover, The Human Centipede and more ...

cool post. OK I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some amazing and easy to customize. check it out at All custom templates, many of them dirt cheap or free to get. Also, check out Downlo on: Wilmington on Movies: I'm Still Here, Soul Kitchen and Bran Nue Dae

awesome post. Now I would like to contribute too by sharing this awesome link, that personally helped me get some beautiful and easy to modify. take a look at All custom premade files, many of them free to get. Also, check out DownloadSoho.c on: MW on Movies: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest, Paranormal Activity 2, and CIFF Wrap-Up

Carrie Mulligan on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Great Gatsby

isa50 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Gladiator; Hell's Half Acre; The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Rory on: Wilmington on Movies: Snow White and the Huntsman

Andrew Coyle on: Wilmington On Movies: Paterson

tamzap on: Wilmington on DVDs: The Magnificent Seven, Date Night, Little Women, Chicago and more …

rdecker5 on: Wilmington on DVDs: Ivan's Childhood

Ray Pride on: Wilmington on Movies: The Purge: Election Year

Quote Unquotesee all »

“I remember very much the iconography and the images and the statues in church were very emotional for me. Just the power of that, and even still — just seeing prayer card, what that image can evoke. I have a lot of friends that are involved in the esoteric, and I know some girls in New York that are also into the supernatural. I don’t feel that I have that gift. But I am leaning towards mysticism… Maybe men are more practical, maybe they don’t give into that as much… And then also, they don’t convene in the same way that women do. But I don’t know, I am not a man, I don’t want to speak for men. For me, I tend to gravitate towards people who are open to those kinds of things. And the idea for my film, White Echo, I guess stemmed from that — I find that the girls in New York are more credible. What is it about the way that they communicate their ideas with the supernatural that I find more credible? And that is where it began. All the characters are also based on friends of mine. I worked with Refinery29 on that film, and found that they really invest in you which is so rare in this industry.”
Chloë Sevigny

“The word I have fallen in love with lately is ‘Hellenic.’ Greek in its mythology. So while everyone is skewing towards the YouTube generation, here we are making two-and-a-half-hour movies and trying to buck the system. It’s become clear to me that we are never going to be a perfect fit with Hollywood; we will always be the renegade Texans running around trying to stir the pot. Really it’s not provocation for the sake of being provocative, but trying to make something that people fall in love with and has staying power. I think people are going to remember Dragged Across Concrete and these other movies decades from now. I do not believe that they will remember some of the stuff that big Hollywood has put out in the last couple of years. You’ve got to look at the independent space to find the movies that have been really special recently. Even though I don’t share the same world-view as some of my colleagues, I certainly respect the hell out of their movies which are way more fascinating than the stuff coming out of the studio system.”
~ Dallas Sonnier