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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Review: The Matchmaker (1997)

* * *

Director: Mark Joffe
Starring: Janeane Garofalo

In my perfect world Janeane Garofalo would be a go-to actress for romantic comedies and more romantic comedies would be of the type that an actress like Garofalo would star in. Romantic comedies don't have to be these deep, profound things (though, of course, they can be), but it's nice when it seems like someone has put a bit of thought and creative effort into one rather than just connecting a bunch of formulaic dots. This is my roundabout way of saying that I really like The Matchmaker, a Janeane Garofalo starring romantic comedy that manages to be a total genre picture while still seeming fresh and a bit different.

Garofalo stars as Marcy Tizard, a campaign worker for a beleaguered politician (Jay O. Sanders) who decides, in a fit of desperation, to attempt to win the Irish vote by sending Marcy to Ireland to uncover his ancestoral roots. Marcy arrives and enters into your basic fish-out-of-water scenario, where her big city ways come into conflict with the rhythms of the village in which she begins her work. To make matters worse, she's arrived right at the beginning of the annual matchmaking festival and finds herself fending off attempts to be set up and married off.

While staying at a local inn, Marcy begins a love-hate relationship with Sean (David O'Hara), the brother of one of the owners. Their attraction to each other is apparent but they spend most of their time bickering, which does nothing to dissuade Dermot (Milo O'Shea), one of the matchmakers, from continuously putting them into situations where they have to spend time together and may even come to like each other. The plot takes a few more twists from here, but I think you know where it's going.

The bare bones of the plot are nothing new. We know from their first fight that Marcy and Sean will fall for each other, that at the moment when it seems like they'll get together The Romantic Complication will be introduced, but that the film will nevertheless manage to close with a kiss. There's nothing revolutionary about where the film ends up relative to where it starts, but it makes getting there a fun ride. The screenplay is sharp and the repartee is well-delivered by the actors, particularly Garofalo and O'Hara. The film is terrifically quotable (whenever I see a seaplane, I always think of Marcy's reaction upon seeing the plane she transfers to once she gets to Europe: "It's a little baby planelet.") and filled with several memorable exchanges, including my favourite ever movie exchange between a drunk character and a cop:
Marcy (after being arrested for vandalism): "You know what this is? A police station."
Cop (bewildered by her emphasis on the obvious): "Yeah."
Marcy: "Staaaaate! It is a police state!"

Seeing it in writting really doesn't do it justice, though. You have to be able to see the expression on Garofalo's face when she realizes her drunken faux pas and then very adamently corrects it.

I've always found Garofalo to be a winning screen presence, perhaps largely because much of her high profile acting work took place when I was in junior high and high school and I found her to be one of the more easily relatable actors out there (am I revealing too much about myself if I say that I totally relate to Heather from Romy and Michele's High School Reunion? Yeah, probably. Fuck off, Toby). I find her particularly likeable here and surrounded by other likeable characters (plus a character played by Dennis Leary, just to balance things out), it results in a very enjoyable movie. The plot may be predictable, but The Matchmaker is still very much worth a look.


M. Carter @ the Movies said...

Your perfect world is my perfect world as well. Janeane always brings a welcome shot of acerbic wit to whatever film she's in. I think her role in "The Truth About Cats and Dogs" proved that.

Norma Desmond said...

I haven't seen The Truth About Cats and Dogs in years but I have very fond memories of it. Sadly, I read recently that Garofalo hates that movie.

Alex said...

I will second that "perfect world" sentiment! This movie's formulaic nature is definitely overshadowed by the lovable presence of Garofalo. She's always the best in everything, and I know what you mean about her relatability in her 90's roles.

Anonymous said...

I relate to the Janeane Garofalo comments. However, there's really only one reason for me to watch this movie: David O'Hara. Even with the stupid shirts and the horrible (not even sexy in a cute way) singing. He's become much, much better looking in recent years too, so let's give this man another romantic lead! Please?

Anonymous said...

Love the police station scene where Garafalo says she s going to stay at the station and &*%$ the two local lads. The best line of the movie is when one of the young men said, " And you wanted to see a film tonight ." Classic.

Were these just local kids from Ireland or professional actors ?