Published October 1, 1997
The Matchmaker, directed by Mark Joffe, stars Janeane Garofalo as Marcy Tizard, campaign worker for Senator John McGlory (Jay O. Sanders) of Massachusetts. McGlory is running behind in his re-election battle on account of some unspecified outrages against family values, and his campaign manager, Nick (Dennis Leary), dreams up the brilliant scheme of sending Marcy to the west of Ireland to look up his moronic boss’s supposed Irish roots. “If we play our cards right,” says the senator, “I’m going to end up like Kennedy.” Then a pause. “Only, you know, alive.” Not too surprisingly, however, the search for his roots only succeeds in making him look even more a fool and Nick the evil genius behind the scenes that the Hollywood Weltanschauung naturally requires. “I always thought that you were just really good at your job,” says the Senator to Nick; “but you really are an a******, aren’t you?”
Marcy arrives in the little village where the Senator’s father told him the family comes from in the middle of a Matchmaking Festival. This provides an opportunity to show off the quaint Irish ways and the funny Irish characters and, of course, to produce a romantic Irishman for Marcy to fall in love with. The trouble is that the matchmaking festival never really makes any dramatic sense and is in any case swiftly forgotten. One industrious matchmaker called Dermot (Milo O’Shea) does take a bet from his rival, Millie (Rosaleen Linehan), that he can bring together “the Yank,” Marcy, and the romantic Irishman, Sean (David O’Hara). But the other relationships and potential match-ups in the village are far too sketchy to make much of an impression. Even Dermot is a caricature, another of the quaint Irishmen who, when they aren’t making pratfalls or otherwise looking foolish, cease to be interesting to the American camera’s short attention span.
Worse than this, Marcy isn’t very attractive. Not only is she short and chubby and dressed in something that looks like turnip sacking, she doesn’t even have anything very interesting to say. Her forte, as she obviously doesn’t have the looks of the glamourpusses of her generation, was supposed to be her wit and her intelligence. Wasn’t it? But neither gets much of an outing here. Likewise, Dennis Leary is often a funny guy, but he hasn’t got anything funny to say in this picture. And Sean, like the rest of the locals, works so hard at being Irish that it’s not very easy to like him either. He and Marcy have a brief argument about “making a difference” (how she thinks she’s doing that working for McGlory is unclear), but it is left unresolved. Nor do we have any clue what moral predicament has taught Sean the lesson that “Sometimes the easy way out is the right way out.”
Maybe it’s just an old Irish saying, like the one that says love is “like gum in your hair; it comes out eventually.” But it could also be an excuse for the film’s taking the easy way out. At any rate, it certainly does so. Very predictably, the lovers are prised apart by means of an ex-wife (Saffron Burrows), a gratuitous and unfunny fist-fight between Sean and his brother and an equally dreary comic car chase. Equally predictably, they then get back together in the good old USA. Nor do I hope it will shock anyone to hear that it disposes of the ex-wife and at the same time engineers an upset victory for the Senator with the slogan: “I’m proud to say the world is my family.” If such an easy way out had taken us by way of a few laughs, it might even have been the right way, but not many people will come out of this movie thinking so.