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1 item from 1997

Film review: 'The Matchmaker'

29 September 1997 | The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News | See recent The Hollywood Reporter - Movie News news »

Since World War II, U.S. presidents who have had more than a wee bit of Irish in them -- Kennedy, Reagan, Clinton -- have won voters with their charm and affability.

All three made trips back to the "homeland" and invariably received boosts (both personal and political) from the experience. A cynical version of that phenomenon, "The Matchmaker" is a trying-to-be cute romantic comedy swaddled around one Boston campaign worker's trek to Ireland to seek out the ancestors of her boss, a lunkish pol who needs the Irish-American vote to return to the Senate in Massachusetts.

Starring Janeane Garofalo as the traveling aide, this romantic comedy is about as romantic as a belch, although not as comedically subtle. Billed as a romantic comedy for those who generally don't like standard romantic comedies, this film has the potential to greatly widen that demographic. Actually, it exudes the kind of romance for those type of folks who like to take world tours without ever leaving the tour bus.

With roughly following the same geographic road map and plot line as Bill Forsythe's charming 1983 film "Local Hero", with Peter Riegert as a callow yuppie who is assigned to travel to Scotland to negotiate a land purchase for his oil company and subsequently falls in love with the pristine setting and unspoiled people, "The Matchmaker" is formulaic fodder glazed in green and hardened with the broadest of comedic elements.

Garofalo stars as Marcy, an overworked and jaded political pro who toils day and night for the re-election of self-styled Kennedy-type Sen. John McGlory. The brawny senator often likens himself to JFK, although he's clearly more a Ted Kennedy type. Not since Dan Quayle compared himself with JFK in a vice presidential debate with Lloyd Bentsen has such nonsense been uttered.

So right off we're presented with an unappealing lout running for the Senate and his snippy aide who, against her will, is sent off to Ireland to find his ancestral home and dredge up some sort of photo op for the doltish demagogue.

With a slug's sense of adventure, an elitist's disdain for everyday folk and a pisser's disposition, Marcy arrives in the Irish seaside town of Ballinagra. Although the setting is so picturesque that you would expect to see it in National Geographic, mopey Marcy carries on like a spoiled blue blood.

She's further distressed that she arrived in the middle of the town's Matchmaking Festival and, despite her obviously single status, resents the fact that all the local folk want to set her up. Incredibly, all the area's single menfolk show up at a campaign stop in hopes of matching up with her. Such a scene leads one to believe there is a severe female famine in Ireland.

Still, the film is sagely peopled by some colorful Irish, which, admittedly, is a redundancy. Screenwriters Karen Janszen, Louis Nowra and Graham Linehan have crammed in an array of appealing oddball, supporting characters, but, alas, they're more comic caricatures that are ancestrally more related to previous movies than, one suspects, small-town Irish.

Athough patently unbelievable, the romantic portion of the scenario is also doggedly predictable as Marcy develops a hate-love relationship with a quirky local (David O'Hara).

In general, Mark Joffe's broad direction lacks the precision and touch necessary to blend farce with romance. Even in the broadest fish-out-of-water terms, "The Matchmaker" sinks. In like manner, the performances are often cartoonish and, in Garofalo's case, largely unappealing. Constant mugging characterizes her performance, which turns on a dime midway through when she transforms from churlish ugly American to a swoony, in-love girl. It's a character leap too great to fathom -- nowhere along the way has Garofalo layered it with any subtleties or hints that there is something other than a lout lurking behind her sullen smirk.

On the plus side, supporting characters are well cast. Denis Leary is aptly snide as the political campaign's treacherous media guru, while Jay O. Sanders is marvelously dopey as the self-serving senator. In a small role, Saffron Burrows stands out as an elegant Irish lass who is The Real Thing, Kennedy-wise and classwise.

On the technical side, a mug at the pub for costume designer Howard Burden's character-perfect stitchings and to cinematographer Ellery Ryan for the magical, misty scopings.


Gramercy Pictures

Producers Tim Bevan, Eric Fellner, Luc Roeg

Director Mark Joffe

Screenwriters Karen Janszen, Louis Nowra, Graham Linehan

Based on a screenplay by Greg Dinner

Line producer Nicky Kentish Barnes

Executive producer Lyn Goleby

Director of photography Ellery Ryan

Editor Martin Smith

Production designer Mark Geraghty

Costume designer Howard Burden

Music John Altman

U.S. casting Amanda Mackey Johnson, Cathy Sandrich

Sound recorder Brendan Deasy



Marcy Janeane Garofalo

Sean David O'Hara

Nick Denis Leary

Sen. John McGlory Jay O. Sanders

Declan Paul Hickey

Moira Saffron Burrows

Millie Rosaleen Linehan

Annie Olivia Caffrey

Michael Claude Clancy

Sgt. Riley James Ryland

Running time -- 96 minutes

MPAA rating: R


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