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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

Leap Year (review)

A Real American Lady

I say it’s about time, as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, to put behind us all that nonsense about “feminism” and undignified female self-determination. Yes, we ladies must at last put down our feet daintily clad in $600 shoes and say: No more.

It’s wonderfully refreshing, therefore, to see the new decade starting off right with an appropriately traditionally minded film like Leap Year. Oh, the hairy-legged among the fairer sex will howl their indignation — they care not whether they behave in a ladylike manner — which means that the movie is doing its job. Amy Adams (Julie & Julia, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian) is absolutely delightful as everything a lady should be in today’s modern-but-conservative world. Her Anna, a 30something Bostonian, has a job, which is very important for keeping a lady in the gowns, shoes, jewelry, and makeup she needs to attract a catch like cardiologist Jeremy (Adam Scott: Step Brothers, The Great Buck Howard). But her work is correctly ladylike: she is not a real-estate agent, no — that’s men’s work — but she makes empty apartments pretty so they’re easier for men to sell. That’s what a lady does: works quietly behind the scenes to make life run smoother for men, who are our betters and deserve to be treated as such.
As we ladies know, however, sometimes that quiet, behind-the-scenes work involves a little subterfuge directed at the men in our lives. A proper lady would never, ever discuss marriage with a man — it is our place to wait for a proposal to come our way, as Anna has been waiting patiently for from Jeremy for some time. She never mentions the subject — that would be crass and demanding and something a nasty, ugly feminist would do, assuming a position of equality with her man — but Anna did, the film informs us, add his name to the mailing list of the ritziest jewelry shop in town. She is, therefore, quite disappointed to discover that Jeremy did not read her mind, and that the little box from that very shop he gives her contains not a ring but earrings — diamond earrings, as befits a lady being courted, but better those diamonds were on a ring. Then again, Anna could probably do with the little bit of scolding that disappointment represents: she has been, ahem, conjugal with Jeremy with four years, and a lady knows that no man will buy a cow when he is getting the milk for free.

Lucky for Anna, Jeremy is about to head off to Dublin for a medical conference, where the custom is that, on Leap Day, February 29, a lady may propose marriage to a man — and Leap Day is right around the corner! Once every four years may be once too many for upending the natural order of things, but custom is custom and must be followed. Also, Anna is getting a bit long in the tooth to expect men to find her attractive and wifely for very much longer, so she really has no choice — a wee bit of desperation in the face of eternal spinsterhood is no sin. Hence, Anna hops on a plane to Ireland with the intention of “popping the question.”

Now, I won’t hear a bit of nonsense about how there is no such Leap Day custom in Ireland. Or about how ridiculously impossible it could be for Anna, her plane diverted to Cardiff, Wales, because of weather, to end up on the Atlantic coast of Ireland in the village of Dingle after hitching a boat ride, when Dublin itself is a much shorter and easier water trip. That kind of cultural and geographical knowledge of other countries is unAmerican — if Ireland and Wales wanted us to know about themselves, they wouldn’t be foreign. I applaud screenwriters Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont — who also wrote the delectably ladylike Made of Honor — for not engaging in any of that awful “multiculturalism” that is sullying the American mindset of late. Ireland is, to a correct homebody American, a land of charmingly superstitious drunks, Third World infrastructure, and cows. Ignorance is an American virtue of which I am very proud, and I don’t need a passport or any of that dreadful exposure to foreigners spoiling it. (And I applaud director Anand Tucker — who is, alas, foreign — for coming down off his snobby arthouse high horse after films like Hilary and Jackie and Shopgirl to make a movie like this one, which will not offend the right-thinking of decent Americans.)

In Dingle, Anna contracts with Declan (Matthew Goode: A Single Man, Watchmen) to drive her to Dublin, and it is along the mishap-laden way during which she learns how to catch a man. (Declan may not be a rich and important cardiologist — plus, he’s foreign — but a lady on the edge of her desirability cannot be choosy.) Anna is properly childish, which makes a man feel useful and protective — men don’t like ladies who can take care of themselves; it demonstrates that we don’t need them. Anna makes cute snap judgments about Declan, based upon no evidence whatsoever, and then recants them demurely when he gently but firmly corrects her: this is how she lets him know that she’s spirited enough to be diverting company but not so headstrong as to be a chore. Much later, when Anna foolishly takes matters into her own hands and makes a decision about how she wants to live her life that contradicts Declan’s ideas, he sets her straight, and properly brings her around to his thinking.

It’s all very proper and appropriate, and I commend Leap Year for reminding us ladies of our fitting appointed place: at the altar, but not by our own doing. We really have had quite enough of this feminism twaddle — women living their own lives their own way, indeed! — and it’s high time to put an end to it.


MPAA: rated PG for sensuality and language

viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine
  • funWithHeadlines

    Bravo! Winner of the first 2010 Tea Party Awards of Distinction for Preserving Our Culture.

    (Or should I have spelled that ‘Cultoor’?)

  • JadeFox

    MaryAnn I totally. I say it’s high time we women organize a march at Washington DC for the right to be shrinking violets, who stand passively behind men! We can call it the Million Manolo March. ;)

  • MaryAnn

    Or Ladies Against Women.

    Oh, wait, that one’s already taken.

    Too bad they don’t seem too active these days. Or maybe they figured they’d already won and retreated home…

  • JadeFox

    With movies like “Leap Year” coming out, they appear to be right.

    Oh Amy Adams, why get involved in this dreck?

  • tomservo

    Who would lead the march? Ann Coulture? Is Phyllis Schaefly still alive?

  • MaryAnn

    Who would lead the march?

    Sarah Palin!

  • Jester

    I can see this review on the posters already.

    “It’s wonderfully refreshing!” — MaryAnn Johanson, flickfilosopher.com

  • tomservo

    Maybe someone more domestic, less threatening; Rachel Ray.

  • Paul

    Greetings,

    Great review! Regular reader and you’ve helped inform many a film choice :-) however in Wales (North Wales, a tiny town called Bala, where I was raised) it is considered a tradition that women can propose on the 29th, also that the 2 best careers are hairdressing or beauty therapy (though pregnancy is still number 1 with a bullet).

    The way to describe where I’m from was best done by a Welsh stand-up comedian called Rhod Gilbert when addressing Keeley Hawes (from the BBCs sequel to the excellent Life on Mars, Ashes to Ashes) in series 5 episode 4 of Live at the Apollo
    “If you want to go back to the eighties you didn’t have to get shot in the head, come back with me to Wales tonight, we have funny attitudes to race and sex, you might even get shot”.

    Cheerio!

  • i was so ashamed of my status as an independent woman-feminazi, after reading this review that i thought about quitting my job! then i realized, my job is already perfect for a girl… i have men who boss me around all day, who know considerably less than i do about the business, i cannot rise any higher in my area of expertise because there’s nowhere to go, i am earning a barely sustainable living and am middle aged and single! Wow! humiliations galore.

    but now i see this is the life of a “real” woman. thank you.

  • “however in Wales (North Wales, a tiny town called Bala, where I was raised) it is considered a tradition that women can propose on the 29th…”

    this is not just in Wales (or Ireland)… i have heard this my entire life here in the US. and, in fact, even remember hearing about “Sadie Hawkins” dances where the girls (gasp) were “allowed” to ask the boys to the dance.

    Sadie Hawkins Day, which is now synonymous with the Feb. 29th tradition, was created by Al Capp in his Li’l Abner cartoon strip. Sadie and every other woman in the hills were allowed [there’s that word again] on that day to chase and catch any eligible bachelors in Dogpatch.

    also from the Wikipedia entry on Leap Year:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leap_year

    In the English speaking world, it is a tradition that women may propose marriage only on leap years. While it has been argued that the tradition was initiated by Saint Patrick or Brigid of Kildare in 5th century Ireland, it is dubious as the tradition has not been attested before the 19th century.[8] Supposedly, a 1288 law by Queen Margaret of Scotland (then age five and living in Norway), required that fines be levied if a marriage proposal was refused by the man; compensation ranged from a kiss to £1 to a silk gown, in order to soften the blow.[9] Because men felt that put them at too great a risk, the tradition was in some places tightened to restricting female proposals to the modern leap day, February 29, or to the medieval leap day, February 24.

  • Kate

    I think February 29th should be reserved for its more important role: my birthday.

  • i have men who boss me around all day, who know considerably less than i do about the business…

    Remind me to tell you about the time I had to work for a female supervisor who not only knew less about our department than me but got insulted whenever I tried to show her anything. Plus she was an anti-Semite to boot.

    Eventually she got fired when I was transferred to another location and she was forced to perform all the duties that I had performed for her by herself. Fortunately, however,most of my experiences with female supervisors apart from her have been a lot better. In fact, I still get Christmas cards from one such supervisor.

  • “It’s wonderfully refreshing!” — MaryAnn Johanson, flickfilosopher.com

    And no doubt magically delicious…

  • Seriously, WTF is it with Hollywood?

    Your great review makes me angry, MA J, very angry. Almost as annoyed as I got yesterday when talking with a 60+ female co-worker who was telling how wonderful the Twilight books are. I politely made my problems with the series known to her (incredibly passive female lead who defines herself only through the men she loves/encouraging women to enter and stay in violent relationships/female lead with no other worldly ambitions such as a further education/career)…

    …and the only reply she came up with was “You wouldn’t understand because you’re a man. This is what every woman wants.”

    *forehead slap*

  • HoneyJoRumples

    Stuart – how utterly refreshing to know there is a man in the world who actually gets why I am so uncomfortable with the Twilight series being so incredibly popular, and influential, with young teens. I agree totally. I’m sorry your friend left you with such an impression, but not all women feel that way. I suppose in a perfect world where fairies dance on lillypads and unicorns prance through the forest, all women want to be saved and rescued by our prince charming, even if he does thirst for our blood, and be beholden to and dependent on him forever. Too bad real life just ain’t that way.

    I was wanting to see this movie until I read this review, and until I learned it was written by the same folks who brought us Made of Honor, the absolute worst, most female nullifying rom-com I think I’ve ever seen.

  • Alli

    That kind of cultural and geographical knowledge of other countries is unAmerican — if Ireland and Wales wanted us to know about themselves, they wouldn’t be foreign.

    LoL. Is it too early to nominate this “Best Review of the Year?”

  • RogerBW

    You have already covered pretty much all the snark that I had thought of from seeing the trailer, particularly regarding the core conceit. Hurrah!

    Would someone whose life is apparently all about control really not look up voltage and plug standards before travelling to another country? (It’s not as though she had arrived in Ireland by accident.)

    Perhaps the reason for the long voyage was that she annoyed the boatman and he decided to take her from Cardiff to Dublin the pretty way (charging by the mile)?

  • MaryAnn

    Would someone whose life is apparently all about control really not look up voltage and plug standards before travelling to another country? (It’s not as though she had arrived in Ireland by accident.)

    Oh, no, it’s not that Amy Adams was unprepared — she *does* have the proper plug adapter. It’s that Ireland is so hilariously fucking backward and hillbilly that she blows the power off all over Dingle. Because the Irish can’t be bothered to look up from their pints of Guinness to upgrade their electrical systems, or something.

    But it’s not that the Adams character isn’t a complete moron. She should have gone to a wifi spot in Dingle (http://www.siliconrepublic.com/news/article/14559/comms/its-dingle-dongle-as-outdoor-mesh-wi-fi-network-goes-live), Googled “Dingle car rental” (http://www.argusrentals.com/Europe/Ireland/car-rental-car-hire-Kerry–Airport.html), and rented a car to drive to Dublin. Hell, she could have just rented a car in Cardiff!

    Yeah, idiot screenwriters: they know what wifi is in Dingle.

    As furious as I am at the anti-woman bullshit in this movie, the anti-Irish stuff is at least as bad.

  • Robert M.

    Don’t be silly, MAJ. She can’t call her personal assistant, or call her travel agent, or just use Google on her smartphone from the airport in Cardiff because that wouldn’t leave her helpless enough to be rescued!

    Since the screenwriters and the intended audience share the assumption that what women really need is for a man to sweep in and fix things, the trail of broken rules doesn’t matter. The writers need to break Anna’s self-reliance in order for the story to work, so never mind all of the bizarre coincidences, geographic impossibilities, and conspicuously absent modern conveniences required to manipulate her into that position: it’s for her own good, and why are you asking so many questions, anyway? Don’t you have any sense of romance in your soul?

    My favorite thing about Enchanted was the way Adams’ character slyly subverts all of the usual Disney/Hollywood rom-com gender BS. It’s extremely disappointing to find it resurrected here in full glory.

  • Knightgee

    It’s disappointing to see actors like Amy Adams and Kristen Bell, who have previously played such charming and strong female characters, suddenly starring in movies that require them to be helpless little children. Is this just the nature of Hollywood, that the more known and bankable a female actor gets, the more it becomes the case that the only high-profile roles they can find for themselves are in backwards rom-coms that reinforce the idea that women are moronic children? Isn’t that pretty much what happened to Brittany Murphy’s career?

  • I agree, Knightgee.

    It’s particularly depressing to see Kristen Bell go from such a great show as Veronica Mars to these poorly written roles in poorly written films. I don’t know how she can stand it…

  • Fuggle

    I don’t know how she can stand it…

    My bet is money.

  • Bluejay

    Is this just the nature of Hollywood, that the more known and bankable a female actor gets, the more it becomes the case that the only high-profile roles they can find for themselves are in backwards rom-coms that reinforce the idea that women are moronic children?

    Is this generally the case with female actors, and is it more than just the expected ups and downs (and ups again) of a career? I’m asking because I don’t know, as I don’t follow the arc of a lot of actors’ careers. But I think of someone like, say, Anne Hathaway, who isn’t (to my knowledge) stuck only in idiot roles in rom-coms. And some more-established names, like Winslet, Jolie, Kidman, and Foster (and of course Streep) seem to be able to find strong roles in smart films. Or are they exceptions to the rule?

  • HoneyJoRumples

    No, I think there are just very few good, meaty roled for women, especially women over a certain age, and the Fosters and Jolies and Winslets and Blunts and Hathaways snap them up. there are only so many to go around. But Amy Adams proved herself in Junebug and Sunshine Cleaning, and I think she will again, but someone’s gotta do the rom coms. Nicole Kidman is not above them (Bewitched) and neither is Winslet (The Holiday) or even the great Streep (It’s Complicated). All these rom coms were far better than Leap Year, but you get the idea.

    I think Angelina Jolie and Foster don’t do rom coms because they just aren’t the rom com type. Being a rom com star requires a certain adorability that these two actresses just don’t have. I mean, the one rom com Angelina did, Life Or Something Like It, totally bombed at the box office despite being a far better movie than its competitor at the time, Two Week’s Notice, a horrible movie, but starring the incredibly adorable, girl-next-door-ish Sandra Bullock. Women just don’t like to see Angelina get the guy, so they don’t pay good money to see it. Sandra bullock is the kind of woman who walks into a room and all the women want to be her friend and know where she got her shoes. Angelina is the kind of woman who walks into a room and every woman instinctively clutches their man just a little tighter. They don’t turn out to see her in films like A Mighty Heart or Changling, either. I’m convinced Changling would have made at least 15 million more at the box office if Hilary Swank had played the role instead of Jolie. That’s why Angelina can only make big box office bank when she’s weilding guns and knives to the delight of 14 year old boys everywhere, and Megan Fox is hot on her heels in that arena. Every actress has their own struggles with being seen as more versatile and not being pigeonholed.

  • deering

    “…Made of Honor, the absolute worst, most female nullifying rom-com I think I’ve ever seen.”

    You missed BRIDE WARS? Lucky you…

  • deering

    “Angelina is the kind of woman who walks into a room and every woman instinctively clutches their man just a little tighter.”

    Eheheheh. Back when Angelina “took” Brad away from Jennifer, seemingly every other chick lit novel either had its “real woman” lead threatened by a Jolie look/act-alike…or mentioned Jolie as every normal woman’s worst nightmare.

  • HoneyJoRumples

    LOL I actually did see Bride Wars, and yes, pretty bad movie, but at least not female nullifying. In Made Of Honor, the male protagonist was an insensitive, womanizing, playah cad who did not deserve the girl at all, but got her anyway, even after 4fing her cousin, who was portrayed as a bitter harpy because she did’t “just get over” being 4-f’d. At least in Bride Wars, the women end up friends again at the end, and only real A-wipe lost his woman (Anne Hathaway) for not loving her as much as he should have, and she ended up with Kate Hudson’s brother, who truly adored her and treated her right.

  • wooster182

    I don’t understand why women are getting such slack for playing such commercial roles. Yes, it’s disappointing that Kristen Bell and Amy Adams has to do cringeworthy movies (although I for the most part enjoyed Leap Year), but Joaquin Phoenix confessed himself that he willingly would do commercial movies he didn’t want to do (like Ladder 49) in order to do the movies he wanted (Walk The Line).

    It may be degrading, but they have to be known before they get the movies they want and Kristen Bell isn’t big enough yet. Why does no one flinch when a man like JP says this but when women do it, they have betrayed their moral character and sex?

  • MaryAnn

    Because Phoenix isn’t making movies — even the commercial ones — that denigrate his gender.

    The question isn’t, “Why are these actresses doing commercial movies?” — we understand why they are — but “Why do commercial movies portray women in such a poor light?”

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