The Closer You Get
small, quaint comedy offers up a half-baked fantasy in a lush back-village
setting. Itís an amiable, unremarkable ninety-two minutes of wacky, dimwitted
characters, but nowhere near as much fun as Waking
Ned Devine, one of the more delicious Emerald Isle imports to arrive on
American shores over the last few years. If the late Jim Varney had somehow
ending up in the remote seaside town of Donegal, this is the kind of quirky film
he might end up doing: Ernest, Far and
Away, in Ireland. Freshman feature director Aileen Ritchie and first time
scripter William Ivory have molded together a fishing community of simpleminded,
lovelorn bachelors who seek instant marriage and imagined rapture (not to
mention a good pint of stout) through a drunk/lunk-headed appeal for exotic
(i.e. American) twenty-something mail-order brides. The Guinness crowd, blind to
the engaging local ladies, get a mild case of comeuppance when the women learn
of their men-folkís prankish behavior.
more seasoned director might have managed a better job with the under-developed
script. The picture doesnít feel terribly cohesive, something that might have
been tackled better by a different Ritchie (Michael), a great cinematic essayist
back in the early 1970s with the ever-watchable Smile. Instead featherweight Ritchie (Aileen), whose background is
in the theater, lets the actors roam the craggy landscape much as they might a
stage. Producer Uberto Pasolini, who also produced the wildly popular The
Full Monty and the generally unseen yet enjoyable sleeper Palookaville
with first time directors, made a calculated decision in going with someone who
"focuses on the subtlety of the relationship and how they work"
according to one of the stars. The result is a sweet-natured film --
light-headed Blarney corn.
story is set up when the intended screening of The Ten Commandments at the local parish goes awry, inadvertently
projecting a mis-delivered print of Ten
-- apparently starting on the wrong reel no less -- with Bo(dacious) Derek
prancing about in slow motion on a Mexican beach. Celibate Father Mallone (Risteard
Cooper) puts a stop to the show (he manages to sneak a peek in private later),
forcing the testosterone-starved males to commiserate at the local pub, owned by
philandering Pat (Ewan Stewart), a former soccer star, and his wife Kate (Niamh
Cusack). The desperate men on the other side of the counter down a few glasses
and dream of meeting the stunning Derek, then devise an outlandish plan to place
a want ad for comparable female companions in some of the larger Irish
newspapers, until they amusingly opt to submit the personal instead to The
Miami Herald after a copy of Playboy
suggests thatís where the action (and gene pool) is.
are these men to plot such a boorish scheme? Town butcher Kieran OíDonnell
(Ian Hart) holds most the screen time among the ensemble cast, as a foppish,
would-be lady-killer who peroxides his hair in hopes of hiding his simple looks
and winning over one the American beauties. Heís clueless that love is right
under his nose -- must be those meat carcasses gumming up his olfactory senses.
Thereís also his mild mannered older brother Ian, a shy sheep farmer with the
only obvious fixation for one of the local lasses and a huge inability to
express himself. Eighteen-year-old Sean (Sean McDonagh) is smart enough to
realize that thereís a whole world to explore outside of Donegal. His pal Ollie (Pat Shortt) is a
thirty-six-year-old virgin afraid he will malfunction on his wedding night. His
efforts in finding sex are abortive until he rapturously explains to Seanís
mother Mary (Ruth McCabe), the postmistress, why she must release some
pornographic literature to him. These sad excuses for men all hide in bushes and
behind rocks, their hopes dashed every day as the daily bus arrives, empty.
the eligible women of the town decide to mute the male trumpets and play their
own tune of seduction, with Siobhan (Cathleen Bradley), Kieranís meat-cutting
assistant, rallying the troopettes and laying her own wily traps for her
unappreciative boss. While the menís want ad goes unanswered in time for an
annual village dance, the women have brought in their own "talent,"
some Spanish seamen, recently docked, that inspire puckish frolicking and
Thereís not a heck of a lot to suggest you wander into The Closer You Get. Thereís plenty better and plenty worse. If you're curious to see self-respect run amok in the Irish countryside, catch a cheap matinee or wait for the video.