John Patrick Shanley, who created the classic MOONSTRUCK, brings his sweeping romantic vision to Ireland with Wild Mountain Thyme.
Here is Gadi Elkon’s review of the film.
The headstrong farmer Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt) has her heart set on winning her neighbor Anthony Reilly’s love. The problem is Anthony (Jamie Dornan) seems to have inherited a family curse, and remains oblivious to his beautiful admirer. Stung by his father Tony’s (Christopher Walken) plans to sell the family farm to his American nephew (Jon Hamm), Anthony is jolted into pursuing his dreams in this comedic, moving and wildly romantic tale.
John Patrick Shanley’s film adaptation of his play, “Outside Mullingar”, is both a visual treat and a slight disappointment. The cliché Irish elements are present in the film. Beautiful rolling greenery, a sorrowful plot, a sing-a-long in a pub, a wacky old neighbor or two, and death around ever turn. Sadly Shanley’s work does run into a world changed and not one that I think will embrace it’s old view of romance. But before I get into the negatives I’ll share the elements that do work in the film.
Stephen Goldblatt’s painting like cinematography truly captures the old world feel of the Irish countryside. As the story is not set in the vibrant Dublin we aren’t given a taste of anything modern until the characters visit NYC. Goldblatt’s capturing of the Big Apple though showcases his majestic eye for the grand nature of the city. Like most Irish film the ability to shoot wonderful scenes set in torrid rain fall is a given. Goldblatt of course highlights the beauty and mystique of its tremendous cast. Emily Blunt’s Rosemary Muldoon shines brightly and even “down trodden” Jamie Dornan’s Anthony is farm adorable. Walken’s father figure and our narrator gets to look aged and worked hard as his farmer character. The sweet score by composer Amelia Warner is another treat as it weaves into sorrowful moments just as smoothly. She helps capture the old world feel of John Patrick Shanley’s mind.
Where the film sadly goes wrong is witty banter seems to prolific and forced. The conversations must work so much better in as a play for the overt descriptive nature is nullified by Goldblatt’s cinematic work. You can only be told how muddy the field is while looking at a muddy field before questioning where is this film going? The dialogue skips past major events, like the multiple deaths throughout the film. We have characters go through dramatic changes in emotion with no real catalyst. The accents are a bit tricky as well. The American and British main cast sound so whimsical and fake compared to the Irish secondary characters. Not only are the accents bad but the like ability of our leads is suspect. Jon Hamm’s American nephew character especially comes across as crash and useless as the other suitor to Rosemary. There is an amazingly obvious “boring” moment in the film where Rosemary is trying to tell Anthony her love of him while we cut back to Hamm’s character on a flight to Ireland. The cutting back and forth hits its peak with a LONG shot of Hamm snoring. No joke we watch as he snores. I have no idea why this shot would seem important. It literally seems to mock Rosemary vs Anthony in the other back-and-forth scenes. And some how Hamm’s character is so amazingly powerful in his snoring that he somehow gets the lovely Irish passenger on next to him to fall for him lovingly?
Lastly, the element that really hits hard on the negative side of the film is the animal comparisons. Throughout the film our lead characters mirror their favorite animals. Jamie Dornan’s sad Anthony has a neurotic dog that mirrors his every move. In one scene Jamie is caught in a rain shower and let into Rosemary’s house moments later the dog mimics the same wet entrance. Jamie even scolds the dog to go lay down in the other room just as he cowers to Rosemary’s eventual advances. Speaking of lovely vibrant Rosemary who is nicknamed the white swan by her deceased father. This imagery comes into full impact when Rosemary takes a flight to New York for one night where wealthy Hamm takes her to the ballet. I’ll let you guess which swan ballet they somehow get amazing seats for the night of the opening. The New York trip or dream as it seems so outlandish is only beaten by Rosemary’s animal compatriot. She owns a lovely horse that is constantly trying to break free from it’s barn enclosure…insert metaphor. The horse only seems free when it is out and free just like our Rosemary. The times we see her detached from the farm she is fully vibrant. She even musters through a sweet rendition of Wild Mountain Thyme in the local pub as a thanks to Walken’s character. Nonetheless she ends up putting the horse back in the barn every night and returns to her sad solace in the farmhouse. For Hamm his animal comparison is in the horse power form of a silver Rolls Royce that he “rents” to drive while he is in Ireland. Don’t get me started on the absurd nature of renting such a vintage car at an airport rental place, but Hamm’s character at least lives up to the over zealous nature of being a Royce in the Irish countryside. Overall, the film falls flat on the love and romance of any of the characters and even handles death with such lackluster you don’t even care emotionally for the loss.
I’m sure this film was much more lovely as a play.
I’m also certain you can spend your 2 hours doing something more worthwhile.
Pass on this one and find your romantic fill with Moonstruck instead.
Directed by: John Patrick Shanley
Written by: John Patrick Shanley, Based on his play “Outside Mullingar”.
Selig Rating: 2 Stars
Running Time: 2hr
Release: December 11th
Starring: Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Christopher Walken, and Jon Hamm
The Selig Rating Scale:
5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
4 Stars – Good movie
3 Stars – OK movie
2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.