“It’s not even halfway over yet!” is never something you want to say while watching a movie, yet I uttered this grim sentiment around 40 minutes into Wild Mountain Thyme, the latest feature from Moonstruck screenwriter John Patrick Shanley, which has dropped just in time to completely bewilder you this holiday season. Sweeping Irish vistas, an appealing cast and a whimsical romantic premise can’t save this nutty story of Rosemary (Emily Blunt), a passionate young woman who has her heart set on Anthony (Jamie Dornan, the Fifty Shades trilogy), an odd childhood friend in a bucolic and appropriately windswept farm community.
That setup is far from bizarre, but everything else in this movie is, and the end product feels as if a bunch of castaway bits of earlier scripts got together and decided to riot and make their own film. Chemistry is everything in a romantic comedy, and there’s not a speck of it to be found here — not between our two leads; not between Rosemary and Adam (Jon Hamm), an attractive, rich American vying for her heart; and certainly not between any of the other characters, who mostly consist of family members passing various judgments on the central love triangle. Many of the latter die early, presumably to save themselves from having to be in this movie for longer than the first half-hour.
There’s not much to say about the plot beyond what I’ve already written, though the details are really where the film gets into the proverbial weeds. Rosemary is obsessed with Swan Lake and fancies herself the ballet’s heroine, which for some reason makes her think she needs to keep pursuing the daft and possibly deranged Anthony. Her ridiculous love interest almost loses his family farm to Adam, but it turns out that the whole thing was just a trick concocted by Anthony’s father, Tony (Christopher Walken) — to motivate Anthony to do what, exactly, it’s hard to know.
Whatever Tony’s intent, it doesn’t work. Anthony wanders the gorgeous landscape with a metal detector, fishes with no pole and thinks he’s a bee. (Yes, you read that right! And no, it’s not a spoiler, because nothing can be spoiled in this random mess of a rotten movie.) Rosemary burns with unrequited passion as she watches all of this, doing absolutely nothing interesting on her own beyond taking an overnight trip to New York City — to see Swan Lake, of course, and kiss Adam limply and unconvincingly before turning around and flying back home. To a man who thinks he’s a bee.
Much has been made of the cast’s allegedly atrocious Irish accents, but not being Irish myself, I didn’t really notice except when Walken gives it a go. His terrible inflection led me to upgrade Wild Mountain Thyme from a half-star to a full one-star rating — namely a moment of heartfelt dialogue with Dornan in which Walken delivers his lines so horribly that it demanded at least six rewatches. I can’t remember the last time I laughed so much.
I thought I knew what I was getting into here. The fact that Shanley is behind the project means I was expecting a touch of fantasy and unreality. Moonstruck is a very silly movie, but somehow it works, and at least Cher and one-handed Nicolas Cage were kind of hot together. Wild Mountain Thyme is just a straight-up stinker.
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