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Lonely hearts: Three Irish bachelors go looking for love in The Closer You Get.

Black Irish

Blarney-filled 'The Closer You Get' doesn't even come close

By Nicole McEwan

IN 1997, a wee British import took the world by storm, grossing many millions, garnishing four Oscar nominations, and adding a new catch phrase to the international lexicon. Male stripping, once solely synonymous with the Chippendales, now became known as doing the Full Monty.

A certifiable phenomenon, Peter Cattaneo's comedy with a social conscience made Robert Carlyle a star and proved to general audiences that British cinema didn't have to wear a hoop skirt and a bustle to be good.

Because show business is just that--a business--any overnight cinematic sensation creates a slew of half-assed spinoffs and watered-down imitations. This explains why we've been watching Tarantino-esque films ever since Pulp Fiction went huge.

This idea is one reasonable explanation for Aileen Ritchie's mediocre The Closer You Get, produced by The Full Monty's Uberto Pasolini.

This featherweight comedy (with a social conscience, natch) details the all-too-precious exploits of five quirky Irish guys who also go to extremes--not to get paid but to get laid.

Horny, shy, daft, and just plain tired of relying on the luck of the Irish, five pub regulars hatch a plan to place an ad in a Miami newspaper. Led by Kieran (Ian Hart)--a man who punctuates every sentence by adjusting his wanker--they hope their inflated promises will attract a bevy of hot-blooded all-American beauties to their tiny village, which is a little low on sun-kissed calendar girls. And, with a bit of coaxing, the sleepy town agrees to throw a party to celebrate the babes' anticipated arrival.

It's not the guys' fault, really. They've been stranded by fate in County Donegal, in a place where the sheep see more action than the population. The priest has never officiated at a wedding, and the local girls have minds of their own.

The ad posted, the gents go about their preparations, and some of the film's most successful humor comes from their efforts, which range from pushups to hair dye to sex manuals (one sorry lad is a virgin).

The women, some jaded by failed romance, some buoyed by common sense, simply watch and wait. Besides, when you live in a town this incestuous, any stranger's face is a friendly one. And who knows? Maybe American women really are dumb enough to fall for a goofy smile and an Irish accent.

The film's central idea--that contemporary men often overlook real-life quality women to chase media-derived centerfold fantasies--was explored with greater depth and insight in the Ted Demme gem Beautiful Girls.

Indeed, Closer holds very few surprises. Because William Ivory's script is such a paint-by-numbers affair, the movie conveys only a sad sense of what might have been. The potential for a savvy exploration of transcontinental stereotyping is hinted at in Closer's opening scenes, but never developed.

The Closer You Get delivers about what you'd expect if you and your glass of green beer got stranded next to a drunken Irish-American on St. Patrick's Day: roughly 90 minutes of occasionally entertaining blarney.


'The Closer You Get' screens at Sebastopol Cinemas and in Santa Rosa at Rialto Cinemas Lakeside. For details, see Movie Times, page 40, or call 829-3456.

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From the April 6-12, 2000 issue of the Sonoma County Independent.

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