Boy, what a trip this movie was, and I don’t mean this in a good way. It is honestly shocking, because John Patrick Shanley, who directed and wrote the screenplay for this film, won an Oscar for Best Screenplay for Moonstruck, and won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the 2005 Tony Award for Best Play (this was for Doubt, which was later adapted for film). I watched both Moonstruck and Doubt, and while I enjoyed the latter more, both are incredible pieces of art. So, how did we even get to a point where we have a film like Wild Mountain Thyme? I guess even the best artists have their off days – this film was a misfire on so many levels.
The film follows Rosemary Muldoon (Emily Blunt), who has her heart set on winning her neighbor Anthony Reilly’s (Jamie Dornan) love since she was a young child. The problem is Anthony seems to possess some kind of defect (one that we don’t find out till the end, and it’s a real doozy), and keeps her at a distance because he feels he is too weird to be loved by anyone. To make matters worse, he finds out that his father Tony (Christopher Walken) has plans to sell the family farm to his American nephew Adam (Jon Hamm). It’s standard rom-com stuff, but the film goes so completely off the rails in its attempts to execute the formula.
The film is set in Ireland, and the main actors are simply unable to muster credible Irish accents. Christopher Walken sounds just like Christopher Walken – maybe with a slight Irish twang. Blunt as Rosemary fares no better, and I do think this affected her performance – you could practically see her overthinking her accent. Dornan, who is from Northern Ireland, adopts the more Southern accent of the area, but he too is simply unable to measure up. If I, a non-Irish person, is able to ascertain how bad it is, then it truly is. There was even an Irish accent emergency declared after the official trailer was released, and that’s all I have to say about that.
The look of the film, with Rosemary traipsing about in shawls and aran cardigans, and the presence of older sort of fishing boats, would suggest a film set in the 1950s. But at some point, Rosemary takes a trip to New York, and it’s modern day New York, so why isn’t the Irish setting true to the period? She also speaks about her freezing her eggs, which certainly sets it in a more contemporary setting. Why am I going on and on about accents and setting? Because this speaks to authenticity. If you want me to buy into the love story between Anthony and Rosemary, you have to sell me the reality of the space they are in.
Also, for one to deliver a successful rom-com, there has to be romance, and there has to be comedy. None of the comedy really lands, and moreover, Blunt and Dornan seem really uncomfortable in their roles. There really isn’t any chemistry between them, and it’s hard to root for a pairing there is no justification for. Rosemary swoons when Anthony utters some poetic words, but none of it is really swoon-worthy, and they managed to make the usually attractive Dornan look so unappealing with his sideburns and perpetual deer-in-headlights look.
I can understand some of the themes Shanley was working with, like the idea of childhood and imagination versus the practicality of adulthood. Everyone tells Rosemary to let go of her fancy, because that would be the practical thing to do, but she is resistant to this way of thinking, and exists as a foil to Adam, who has built a life of financial stability. It’s also an Irish v. American thing, and this becomes a problem because it pigeon-holes the Irish as whimsical, quirky folk, while Americans are pretentious show-offs.
Wild Mountain Thyme loses the viewer because it fails to show any understanding of the human condition, instead giving us characters who feel like caricatures as opposed to real people. The film looks beautiful though, I’ll give it that.
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Wild Mountain Thyme fails to satisfy the basic conditions of a rom-com - the romance is not believable, while the comedy falls flat. Let's not even talk about the accents.
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