Inside the conventional “The Matchmaker,” there’s a weird movie struggling to get out.
The movie owes a debt to “Local Hero,” which was also about a craven American who travels to a small town in the United Kingdom, where the crazy locals help the Yank figure out what’s important. In “The Matchmaker,” Janeane Garofalo plays a senatorial aide who goes to Ireland to find her boss’s roots (“If we play our cards right, I’m going to end up like Kennedy. Only alive,” says the oafish senator).
Garofalo is one of the liveliest performers around. Acerbic, crabby and take-no-prisoners smart, she always seems to be making fun of herself and everyone else. But her cynicism is balanced by her dazzling smile.
She plays her scenes as if she’s in a constant state of irritation, which is perfect because “The Matchmaker” presents her with a constant stream of irritations. The Irish try to hose her on business deals, she doesn’t get their slang (have a crack, for instance, means “have fun”) and they insist on involving her in their town’s matchmaking festival.
That’s where “The Matchmaker” falters. The villagers, and Garofalo’s reactions to them, are funny, but when “The Matchmaker” bogs down in the cliches of romantic comedy - Garofalo falls for a guy but, wait, he’s married but, wait, he’s getting divorced but, wait, Garofalo mistakenly thinks he’s reuniting with his ex-wife but, oh forget it - you start to get impatient. (I bet that stuff made Garofalo impatient, too - you can easily picture her choosing scripts based on which have the fewest corny twists for her to stomach.)
Ultimately, Garofalo is sharp enough to conquer the weaknesses of the script. Plus, there’s catchy music and a good enough sense of what life is like in this rowdy little Irish village to insure that you’ll have a crack along with Garofalo.
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “The Matchmaker” Location: North Division Credits: Directed by Mark Joffe, starring Janeane Garofalo, Rosaleen Linehan Running time: 1:36 Rating: R