Regular readers will have noticed that I very rarely review comedies and almost never review romantic comedies, and there’s a simple reason for this: I don’t generally like “rom coms”. It’s not that I’m immune to humour or to romance, and there have been a fair few comedic romantic films I’ve quite enjoyed, but the genre as a whole reeks of casual sexism in a way that I find deeply objectionable. So thank you to Leap Year for not only being phenomenally awful but also a perfect illustration of the backwards content such films can be built from.
Leap Year follows an irritating and deeply shallow young woman from Boston as she travels through Ireland in the hope of proposing to her equally bland and shallow boyfriend after discovering an Irish tradition that allows women to propose to men in a leap year. Striding across rural Ireland in improbably high heels, she meets scores of cardboard cut-out locals who gabble about luck and say things like “top o’ the morning” and “to be sure”, and, naturally, she falls for the only one she meets who is under forty. It’s predictable and mediocre on all levels: the script is tedious, the acting unbelievable, the direction pedestrian and the music insipid, complete with jaunty fiddle sections to remind us that we are in Ireland. In fact the depiction of the Irish characters and their homes is woefully stereotypical but delivered without any hint of the irony that could lift such a scene. It’s tedious, turgid, clichéd and frankly awful from start to finish.
But what turns an unimpressive film into a truly terrible one is the sexist and derivative depiction of the central character, Anna. Anna is a deeply unlovely character when introduced; she’s shallow, dull and arrogant, with no obvious aspirations other than moving into a fancy apartment and getting married. Even her profession is drearily stereotypical: Anna dresses up houses that are about to be sold to make them more appealing for potential buyers, a depressingly shallow twist on the traditional role of the “happy homemaker”. When she thinks her boring boyfriend is about to propose but doesn’t, she decides to follow him to Ireland, moaning about the state her shoes and her designer suitcase all the way. Of course as the film goes on we are supposed to warm to her as she becomes a little less insufferable but she’s still dim enough to enter into a marriage for the sake of getting that “dream” apartment before she suddenly decides to go back to the “lovable” (read caricatured) Irish rogue she fell for on the way.
Must we women really be forced to relate to these dull, ambition-less girls whose only interests are men and appearances? Do comedies centring around female characters have to involve awkward, badly-realised romances? Do filmmakers really think that putting their female lead in a suit and a live-in relationship make her a “modern woman”? Because I for one do not. Come on, Hollywood, let’s see some women that we can actually relate to for a change. Let’s see some female leads who don’t feel the need to kiss the male lead whenever they’re feeling emotional. If nothing else, please stop marketing these terrible films at us!
Stodgy, sexist and stereotypical, Leap Year is far more depressing than it is amusing. Avoid at all costs.