The Closer You Get

on February 25, 2000 by Kim Williamson
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   In a homely hamlet on the craggy coast of Donegal, the menfolk are like the martians of the old B-movie: They need women. But they have a simple (or simple-minded) plan: They will place an ad in a Miami newspaper publicizing their interest in making matrimony with American lasses. (Although, of course, matrimony is not the first, and barely the last, act on their agendas.) Having thus posted their availability with full references to their supposed virtues and potencies, they make preparation for a village party a few weeks hence to welcome the waves of womanhood they are sure will pour onto their shores.
   The local women, knowing the true intent of the testosterone natives, and feeling more than a bit ignored, plot their revenge: They will invite particularly hirsute foreign fishermen to the affair, to which they expect will come zero femmes from afar, leaving the Irish lads to stand about like wallflowers at the dance while exotic seamen carouse the night away with the local ladies. Which indeed, and predictably, is what transpires, with the equally expected character transformations following thereafter.
   With "Waking Ned Devine" and especially "The Full Monty," Fox Searchlight previously found success with light-hearted visits to the lands of isle and glen, and "The Closer You Get" looks to continue that streak--if, due to the film's predictability, closer to the "Devine" level of boxoffice. As always, Ian Hart is effective, making his lead, the lustlorn and headstrong butcher Kieran O'Donnagh, a focus of audience affection, in part due to his increasingly obvious desperation, which includes the dying of his dark hair to blonde. Among those playing the rest of the burg's cutely idiosyncratic (of course) souls are Sean McGinley (who previously teamed with Hart in "The Butcher Boy" and "Michael Collins"), Niamh Cusack ("The Playboys") and Ruth McCabe ("Talk of Angels"). Working from a story by Herbie Wave, actor-turned-BBC comedy writer William Ivory peoples his village with an interesting menagerie of characters, and director Aileen Ritchie keeps her camera for "The Closer You Get" just distant enough to keep audience involvement with this war-of-the-sexes affair of the gentle, easy-going-down variety. Starring Ian Hart, Sean McGinley, Niamh Cusack and Ruth McCabe. Directed by Aileen Ritchie. Written by William Ivory. Produced by Uberto Pasolini. A Fox Searchlight release. Comedy. Rated PG-13 for brief language and some sexual material. Running time: 115 min
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