The Closer You Get (American Women)

Directed by Aileen Ritchie
Starring: Ian Hart, Niamh Cusack, Pat Shortt, Sean McDonagh, Cathleen Bradley, Sean McGinley, Ruth McCabe, Ewan Stewart.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief language and some sexual material.

Review by Matt Heffernan
March 17, 2000

I suppose that it's only appropriate that I review an Irish film for St. Patrick's Day. A coincidence, really, but a rather nice one. For a little island, they put out an impressive bunch of films each year, and this is the first for 2000 to reach American shores.

In the small town of Donegal, the dating scene is pretty sparse. There are several bachelors, but no virgin brides to be had. Kieran (Ian Hart), the local butcher, collaborates with his friends to place an ad in the Miami Herald for American women to come to their town -- with hopes of finding wives. Thanks to the nosy women at the post office, the whole town finds out about their plan.

Meanwhile, the single women of Donegal (all divorcées or widows), try to get some attention. Siobhan (Cathleen Bradley) works for Kieran, and secretly likes him, but she is offended by his latest ploy. She brings the women together for some sly revenge. In the middle are pub owners Pat (Ewan Stewart) and Kate (Niamh Cusack), whose marriage is falling apart. And looking over the situation is 18-year-old Sean (Sean McDonagh), who narrates the film.

The Closer You Get is a fairly obvious comedy that plays much like a feature-length sitcom episode. First-time director Aileen Ritchie keeps it moving, and has assembled a fine cast. If the characters weren't so charming, the more trite aspects of the story would have been inexcusable. This is also the first screenplay for William Ivory, who adapted from a story by Herbie Wave (also new to film). Perhaps with more experience, the group could make something more meaningful.

For now, they can't go wrong by casting Hart, who was also wonderful in The End of the Affair. He brings the most energy to the picture, making a drunken, ball-scratching slob seem to be a pretty likeable guy. Another good performance comes from Pat Shortt, who plays a 36-year-old virgin that desperately wants to meet some women, but is still concerned about abandoning his mother.

For a romantic comedy, The Closer You Get is adequate entertainment, but a mere trifle compared to comic gems like Waking Ned Devine and The Commitments. Perhaps a great Irish film will have to wait for another day, but that shouldn't stop us from celebrating. Erin go bragh!

NOTE: While the film was distributed in U.S. theatres under the original title, it was changed to American Women for its U.S. video release (9/26/2000).

For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
The Closer You Get (2000)

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American Women (2000) -- VHS
The Closer You Get: Soundtrack -- Compact Disc Home
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Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan