Janeane Garofalo plows right through The Matchmaker with the same disgruntled sarcasm that typifies her testy, standard-bearer-for-the-underdogs-of-the-world persona. Try though it may to cast America's Favorite Anti-Star in a Romantic Comedy For People Who Don't Like Romantic Comedy, this script, a wholesale retread of Local Hero, plays on the generic conventions that Garofalo's trademark defensiveness all but disallows. A little makeup and a few smiles from the permascowl do not a romantic lead make.
Garofalo plays Marcy Tizard, a single-minded political professional bent on reelecting her candidate, a senator from Boston. With the reelection prospects of her candidate, John McGlory (Jay O. Sanders), waning, chief of staff Nick Ward (Denis Leary) dispatches Marcy to Ireland to drum up some long-lost McGlory relatives who might help secure the much-needed Irish vote back home. Marcy arrives in the pokey town of Ballinagra just as the annual Matchmaking Festival begins--isn't that always the case?--and her search for long-lost McGlorys instead turns up unwanted suitors. Still, she tirelessly seizes the platform in pub after pub, inquiring as to any acquaintance with the fabled McGlorys. In the course of her search, Marcy can't help coming across the town's rival matchmakers--Dermot (Milo O'Shea), who runs the local tanning parlor, and Millie (Rosaleen Linehan).
The weeks wear on, and Marcy shuttles back and forth between the antiquated phone she uses to keep the senator apprised of her progress and the local pub where the townsfolk while away the hours. Sean (David O'Hara), the brother of the innkeeper where she stays, ushers her around town on her quest. Gradually, his guileless but playful nature challenges her equanimity, forcing her to reconsider where she draws the line between the integrity in her professional life and the intimacy in her personal life. Though her allegiances and perspective ostensibly evolve, ultimately she forsakes her newfound unguardedness--until it catches up with her.
Though the film clearly intends to depict cosmic truths through the ordinary realities of its moral dilemmas and bedroom bedlam, not a whole heck of a lot emerges from the mist overhanging the Western Irish seaside town. The film's about Marcy and how she affects the town--and only slightly about how it affects her. In one particularly noteworthy scene, she learns of the death of an elderly resident with whom she'd established a rapport; her stoic "Oh, no!" rings so disingenuous as to be almost laughable--were it not so tragically inept. Garofalo has proven she can pull off romantic comedy: She brought a measured warmth to The Truth About Cats and Dogs. But when she begins to fall for the charms of this small country town, her performance rings hollow--like someone who watched too many Julia Roberts films and tried to imitate the facial reactions. It's a hollow interpretation. Garofalo always looks like she'd rather smirk than smile.
All told, the film's texture resembles the flat, wet, and craggy topography of the moors in which it is set. Local Hero maintained a sense of irony about its characters, allowing them subtle shifts away from their defining constitution; it never tried to be anything more than a small and charming film. The Matchmaker wants to be so much more, but it couldn't be any less.
Janeane Garofalo, Jay O. Sanders, Denis Leary, Olivia Caffrey, and Joan Sheehy. Written by Karen Janszen, Louis Nowra, Graham Linehan; based on a screenplay by Greg Dinner. Directed by Mark Joffe.
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