The Matchmaker

1997, R, 112 min. Directed by Mark Joffe. Starring Janeane Garofalo, David O'Hara, Milo O'Shea, Jay O. Sanders, Denis Leary, Rosaleen Linehan, Paul Hickey, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Saffron Burrows.

REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Oct. 3, 1997

The wait for Janeane Garofalo to receive top billing in a film vehicle is now over. Is the perennial “secondary” player up to the task? Yes. Is the task up to her? Well, not really. As light romantic comedy, The Matchmaker is rife with implausibilities and missed opportunities, but the film's lackadaisical tone receives a steadying jolt from the caustic edge Garofalo's presence adds to the proceedings. Things begin improbably as Marcy (Garofalo), the beleaguered but loyal political aide of a Massachusetts senator (Sanders) who's embroiled in a failing election campaign, is sent to the senator's ancestral home in Ireland to dig up his family roots and, thereby, capture Boston's sizable Irish vote. She arrives in the small Irish town without a prior hotel reservation and finds herself smack dab in the middle of the town's annual Matchmaking Festival. The setting provides ample opportunity for a flood of clichéd Irish humor that is only allayed by the biting retorts to all the colorful blarney by unabashedly single gal Marcy, who sticks out in this town like a sore thumb. Humor-wise, the verbal jokes are pretty tired, yet occasions for well-choreographed physical humor are also inexplicably foregone by Aussie director Mark Joffe (Cosi). Marcy, of course, manages to catch the eye of part-time bartender and ex-journalist Sean (O'Hara) and their on-again/off-again interest in each other forms the heart of the story. There are pale shades of The Quiet Man here, but none of them recreate the rich emerald hue of the John Ford classic. By the film's climax, Marcy's boss and his scheming assistant (Leary) hop over to Ireland to find out what's stalling Marcy in her time-sensitive search for his photo-op roots (an out-of-pocket trip that no senator in the heat of a sinking campaign would ever rationally make). Despite such narrative flaws, The Matchmaker works as passable light entertainment. Stalwart fans of romantic comedy may find an “anti-star” like Garofalo too much of a stretch in a world dictated by Pretty Woman fairy tales and Sleepless in Seattle yearnings. Yet for some of us who find the standard romantic scenarios a bit too wispy and remote, Garofalo may be just the kind of bluster-bustin' leading lady we've been seeking.

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The Matchmaker, Mark Joffe, Janeane Garofalo, David O'Hara, Milo O'Shea, Jay O. Sanders, Denis Leary, Rosaleen Linehan, Paul Hickey, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Saffron Burrows

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