Film review: Wild Mountain Thyme a misfiring slice of garish Irish whimsy
WILD MOUNTAIN THYME (12A, 104 mins) Comedy/Drama/Romance. Emily Blunt, Jamie Dornan, Christopher Walken, Jon Hamm, Don Wycherley, Abigail Coburn. Director: John Patrick Shanley. Released: April 30 (streaming on all major platforms)
IN 1988, playwright John Patrick Shanley deservedly won an Oscar for his original screenplay to the gorgeously giddy romantic comedy Moonstruck starring Cher as an Italian-American widow with a passion for Puccini.
More than 30 years later, lightning fails to strike twice but the rain clouds certainly open in Wild Mountain Thyme, a misfiring slice of garish Irish whimsy adapted by writer-director Shanley from his 2014 Broadway play Outside Mullingar.
Taking its title from a lilting folk ballad, which lead actors Emily Blunt and Jamie Dornan croon in a cosy pub setting, this tangled tale of star-crossed farmers' children has tantalising, brief flashes when performances, script and direction dance a merry jig.
Alas, those genuine belly laughs are as scarce as leprechauns and a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow – Shanley stops short of going there, but only just.
A luminous cast is frequently at odds with clunky dialogue that would sit awkwardly in an outdated sitcom festooned with Guinness-quaffing stereotypes.
A bewildering array of patchy Irish accents does not help a lost cause but cinematographer Stephen Goldblatt captures the lush sprawl and coastal grandeur of Co Mayo even when the heavens open for a sodden, unconvincing declaration of simmering desires.
As a spirited young girl growing up on her family's farm, Rosemary Muldoon (Abigail Coburn) listens intently to Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake with her doting father (Don Wycherley).
He convinces his daughter that she is a white swan and “can do anything”.
Years later, when she has blossomed into an independent woman, Rosemary (now played by Blunt) hankers dreamily for aloof neighbour Anthony Reilly (Dornan). He is reluctant to reciprocate Rosemary's doe-eyed advances.
Anthony's ageing father Tony (Christopher Walken) fears his only child will never marry and the Reilly clan's proud 121-year history of working the land will die with the next generation.
Consequently, Tony proposes bequeathing the farm to his smooth-talking American nephew, Adam (Jon Hamm).
Rosemary is furious that Anthony should be denied his birthright. As matters come to a head and a torrential downpour lashes the two farms, Tony has a heart-to-heart with his boy and reassures Anthony: “I have faith love will find you in those fields when you want her.”
Wild Mountain Thyme is one profane, boozy priest shy of a tongue-in-cheek parody but writer-director Stanley earnestly pursues his convoluted romantic agenda.
He engineers a flimsy love triangle by recycling the life-affirming opera scene in Moonstruck for a ballet performance of Swan Lake in New York, but it is impossible to take the heavy-handed convolution seriously.
Blunt and Dornan work tirelessly to find a four-leafed clover in the tall grass of Shanley's script but it is a thankless undertaking.