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‘Wild Mountain Thyme’ review: Irish rom-com won’t leave you ‘Moonstruck’
John Patrick Shanley, the writer of “Moonstruck,” made one fatal error with his new romantic comedy, “Wild Mountain Thyme”: He directed it.
It’s a mistake the man has made before, when he helmed the film adaptation of his Broadway play “Doubt” in 2008. Meryl Streep and Amy Adams gave strong performances of his harrowing script about Brooklyn nuns, but Shanley’s small-scale style behind the camera lacked emotional sweep and compelling pacing.
It’s more noticeable this “Thyme” because the film, which is based on Shanley’s 2014 Broadway play “Outside Mullingar,” is set on lush Irish farms. Instead of transporting us to a wide-open environment, the beautiful scenery is reduced to a putting green.
That saps away much of the romance in this comedy, especially in the early scenes when we first meet Anthony (Jamie Dornan) and Rosemary (Emily Blunt), neighboring farmers who cultivate crops — and sexual tension.
While chilly Rosemary quietly pines for Anthony, his pop (Christopher Walken) wants to sell the family farm to a high-rolling nephew from New York (Jon Hamm), who charms his way into being the courtship’s third wheel. “Moonstruck” fans will also appreciate that there is a family curse involved.
It takes a while to get to the film’s best scene — all the way to the end, in fact. It’s a climactic sequence during a torrential downpour, when Rosemary sits Anthony down in her farmhouse dining room, gets him drunk on Guinness and forces the awkward lad to confront the dangling threads of their situation.
Their burning back-and-forth is fast as a cable news show, and Blunt and Dornan’s chemistry eclipses anything the hunky actor ever managed with Dakota Johnson in “Fifty Shades of Grey.”
That scene is also much less hackneyed than Rosemary’s on-the-nose sparring with Hamm’s Adam when he first arrives in town behind the wheel of a Rolls-Royce and talks to the distracted woman about her farm.
“How do you not know how many acres you have?” he asks.
“It’s just a number,” Rosemary replies.
“I’m all about numbers!” he retorts.
Shanley’s writing bounces between that sort of painfully obvious character commentary and moments of magic. Still, it’s his tunnel-visioned direction (whose idea was it to cast Walken as a rural Irish dad?) that makes for a meager harvest.