Tuesday, April 23, 2024

‘Irish Wish’ Reminds Us of the Joy of Lohan

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There are romantic comedies and rom-coms. Romantic comedies are movies where people fall in love, but nothing overly whacky happens; it’s just the people. If the characters aren’t sane, at least the world is- to some degree. Rom-coms, however, are movies where, if you move a little to the right or left, they could be psychological thrillers or black comedies about the worst people imaginable.

Both are fun in their ways.

irish wish
Maddie (Lindsay Lohan) steps off the bus and into a storybook wedding that’s not hers.

The latest Lindsay Lohan Netflix vehicle, Irish Wish, is a rom-com, and I mean that as a compliment. Janeen Damian’s second feature with Lohan is an entirely absurd, charming, scatterbrained Hallmark-esque movie with all the stakes of a sitcom. Or maybe it was all the allergy medication I was on; whatever the case, I had a good time.

Lohan plays Maddie, an editor in love with the writer of the book she edited, Paul Kennedy (Alexander Vlahos). She’s besotted with the Irish charmer that she can’t see what a shallow dick Paul is. He’s not mean; well, he is, and he is using a lot of Maddie’s ideas as his own and asking her to postpone her starting her book to help write his.

Kirsten Hansen’s script wastes zero time in establishing Maddie’s devotion to Paul and Paul’s devotion to himself. It’s puzzling how Maddie’s friends, Heather (Ayesha Curry) and Emma (Elizabeth Tan), don’t pick up on Paul’s vapidness. Perhaps it’s Paul’s Irish charm, but that doesn’t explain it. Maddie’s mother, Rosemary (Jane Seymour), can be forgiven because she’s never met the man.

Though if I did use star ratings, I’d knock a full star off of Irish Wish for how it practically wastes the iconic Seymour. A local Des Moines high school principal, she’s there to show us how far Maddie the apple has and has not fallen from Seymour’s tree. Forthright and decisive, she starkly contrasts Maddie’s indecision and somewhat worrying people-pleasing tendencies. 

Paul eventually falls for Maddie’s best friend, Emma, and they are engaged within months. If this weren’t a rom-com, one would wonder why Maddie isn’t happy for her best friend. A little resentment and disappointment would be understandable, but she never tells Paul how she feels. Still, one gets the notion that the right little bastard knew. 

Then there’s the very weird, perhaps too undercooked plot device of Maddie’s wish. While at Paul’s estate in Ireland for Emma’s wedding, Maddie finds an old stone bench. It’s a wishing chair, and of course, Maddie wishes that she was the one marrying Paul. Unfortunately for Maddie, a fairy played by Dawn Bradfield overhears her wish and grants it.

Or is she a fairy? There’s talk of fairies at the beginning of Irish Wish, and other characters talk of fairies, which are part of Irish folklore, and the wishing chair itself feels like something out of fairy mythology. But during the alternate timeline where Maddie is marrying Paul, we learn from a Priest- that the woman Maddie talked to was Saint Brigid. “She won’t always give you what you want but she’ll always give you what you need.”

Though what Maddie really needs isn’t so much Fairy magic but to pull her head out of her ass. Which, in Saint Brigid’s defense, is what she’s trying to show Maddie. So, fair play to her.

Damian does a solid job blending the Irish countryside with a romantic comedy about a woman getting married to the man of her dreams while falling for the real man of her dreams. It’s fluff, but it’s the kind of fluff that, if done wrong, comes off like nails on a chalkboard.

She uses Graham Robbins’s camera to capture the rolling green hillsides of Ireland and breathtaking coastal views as a nice padding to the runtime. Even if, at times, you could see the computer-generated block meant to block out someone’s estate and replace it with trees. At a certain point, the imperfections become part of the pleasures of Irish Wish.

If Irish Wish weren’t a rom-com, perhaps Maddie wouldn’t be so gung-ho about marrying Paul once she realizes her wish has been granted. It takes a suspiciously long time for it to start to register that she’s quite literally stealing her best friend’s life. But that’s the catch-22 of Hansen’s script, showing Maddie that her dream life isn’t really what she wants.

irish wish
James (Ed Speleers) and Maddie (Lindsay Lohan) stare longingly into each other’s eyes.

It’s that aspect of Irish Wish that Lohan helps bring to life—the slow realization that life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. She was so busy pining over Paul that she neglected herself and the dreamy James. James, unlike Paul, encourages her to write her own books, to stand up for herself, and to be curious about Maddie’s wants and desires. 

All the while, Maddie can’t help but notice how Paul and Emma keep finding themselves drawn toward each other. These aspects of Irish Wish hint at a more complicated movie than what Damian or Hansen are aiming for. It’s a bit of a pity because I believe Loahn could have made that Irish Wish sing just as well.

She takes tired and worn tropes and executes them so they don’t feel all that ragged. Within seconds of meeting Maddie, she gets her scarf stuck in a cab door, forcing Lohan to run along the cab as she tries to free herself. Aiding Lohan in this is how Hansen’s script makes Maddie’s anxiousness more Hansen’s schtick and Maddie’s trait; it is an authentic aspect of her personality. Lohan is constantly fidgeting, tense, and a coil wound too tight.

Take the meet-cute she has with the cute photographer James (Ed Speleers) after arriving at the airport. Their meet-cute is one of the more contrived ones of the genre, fighting over a suitcase. James does offer some sage words of advice, “Just look at the tag,” if they did that, then they wouldn’t fight, and we wouldn’t know they wouldn’t have wanted to kiss before they couldn’t have. But Lohan commits to the stubbornness in a strangely believable way for a movie like Irish Wish.

irish wish
From left to right: James (Speleers), Emma (Elizabeth Tan), Maddie ( Lohan), Heather (Ayesha Curry), and Paul (Alexander Vlahos).

Both Speleers and Vlahos are good leading men. Speleers, with his laid-back Crest-White smile, and Vlahos, with his beguiling lilt, are great polar opposites for Maddie to choose. The chemistry between Lohan and Speleers is palpable, making the flirting and the trite banter all the more bearable.

There’s joy in seeing a healthy Lohan so effortlessly fireman-carrying a film across the finish line. It’s a reminder that she was a movie star back when that mattered and how she could be again. 

Damian’s Irish Wish is a movie that could stand to be a little better. But if it were any worse, not even Loahn and her charms could save it. Thankfully, it’s good enough that she makes it bearable. 

Images courtesy of Netflix

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