Oh deep and everlasting joy. Another Oirish ensemble comedy. It's hard to get excited about an evolving genre which relies for its success on references to the black stuff and appealing to the ever-expanding Irish-American community ("My grandpa flew over Dublin, I feel a link").
But while The Closer You Get won't avoid the obvious comparisons with Ballykissangel, you won't feel you've wasted a fiver on substandard Sunday night TV. Yes, the standard stereotypes are here, lifted straight from the Giant Film-maker's Book Of Irish Clichés: one pub where absolutely everybody in the village drinks; a likeable but ineffectual Catholic priest; and the lumpen stupidity attributed to many characters, simply because they're from the countryside.
There's also the apparent crassness of the conceit: a group of Irish lads waiting for the attractive Yanks to arrive is a marketing man's wet dream. But behind the cosmetic mask of Ritchie's debut a genuinely warm and witty comedy beams out.
Ian Hart is, as ever, excellent as the bumbling butcher Kieran, while Niamh Cusack brings a quiet dignity to her role as a neglected housewife. And Sean McGinley, a face you'll remember from Braveheart, gives the necessary air of yearning to a character believing that he can grasp happiness. Sean (Sean McDonagh) also impresses, radiating an endearing dumb innocence as the teenager tempted to explore life outside Donegal.
Were it not for the performances, it'd be easy to let your attention wander, as the story's so slight and obvious that it almost encourages disinterest. Writer William Ivory deserves praise for delivering a scene when Father Malone (Risteard Cooper) describes love as a "fragile gift" from God without you wanting to chin him. Don't be put off by all the apparent clichés; the closer you get, the more you'll be charmed.
Sweet, funny and surprisingly unOirish. Although the comedy is gentle and the drama predictable, there are good performances throughout. Even those who'd rather be dead than watch Waking Ned might enjoy this.
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