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.

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