THE LUCK OF THE IRISH seems to have turned in this curiously simple comedy from the producers of The Full Monty. On the scabby Donegal coast, "getting lucky" seems to be the predominant obsession with a village's unmarried—and hot-blooded—males. Like the motley band of unemployed men in Monty, Closer assembles a unlikely group of butchers, farmers, mechanics, and ex-athletes who, over pints and Playboy centerfolds, bemoan the lack of marriageable women in their part of the world. Then someone comes up with an idea: Advertise in an American newspaper (Miami is agreed upon) for women "to come to a dance with a view of getting married."
Who are they kidding?
THE CLOSER YOU GET
directed by Aileen Ritchie
with Ian Hart, Sean McGinley, Niamh Cusack, and Ruth McCabe
opens March 9 at Meridian, Seven Gables
But the views are plentiful, even quaint: The lovely hillsides, dotted with lovely sheep and marked with a lovely parish church, are a lovely bus ride from anywhere. Kieran the butcher (Ian Hart) and his brother walk to the pub across the tide flats in their wellies with their skiff over their heads for the paddle home. It's the kind of place where the bus stops once a day and no one ever gets off. The parish priest hasn't performed a marriage thus far in his tenure, and prefers his own chaster methods of assembling the masses—screenings of The Song of Bernadette and The Keys to the Kingdom inside the church.
Despite being found out by the village women, the men's expectations reach a fever pitch, and the movie's major source of tension is their preparations. Kieran undergoes a radical dye job, much to the disgust of his female assistant; another determines to lose his virginity before the Americans arrive; and between sit-ups and primping they all pop up from behind rocks and shrubs when the bus comes—empty, as usual—every day. Director Aileen Ritchie manages to capture the smallness of a place and the big, albeit unrealistic, intentions of these characters in a Waking Ned Devine kind of way.
However, Closer lacks that small-town Irish charmer's freshness and unexpected pleasures. It's too safely executed and loaded with calculated chuckles. In Ned Devine, the big lottery ticket actually changed an entire town's luck. Here, the whimsy of unmet expectations doesn't deliver enough of a payoff, and the bachelors' underlying loneliness is treated like a joke.