So you haven’t got the creative talent in the writing or directing department to get funding for your film, then what’s the next step? Why, pitch a 90 minute Dublin tourist video featuring a star of American television (well known, but not too pricey) and surely the money will come rolling in. Standby is one of those Irish rom-coms that gives both rom-coms and Irish films a bad name, telling the story of an unlucky-in-love Dublin man (Brian Gleeson) who works at the tourist information desk in Dublin airport when an old American fling (Jessica Paré) randomly shows up on Valentine’s Day.
We’re past the age of cynicism here, so even such an opaque and unimaginative setup is forgiveable when the story and characters work. But Alan has no sympathetic qualities, meaning the comedy aspect of this romantic comedy is non-existent. The romantic side of the story also plays second fiddle to random Tourist Board shots of Gleeson and Paré sitting in Dublin pubs drinking Guinness or cycling down College Green into a particularly sanitary looking Temple Bar to a Villagers song.
The conspicuous selling of Dublin as a tourist destination feels comparable to an American blockbuster actually featuring a thirty second spot for Coca-Cola. You’re in no doubt here that you are watching an advertisement, and indeed, the two main characters have the emotional depth of the types of lovers who appear in tourist videos. We even get jokes about the weather and bits of “sure aren’t we awful self-deprecating altogether” contrived humour. It plays up to the worst of Ireland’s watered down image of its own people that certain government bodies try to project across the world.
On a more positive note, the cinematography is fine, glossy and inauthentic, but easy on the eyes. Although most of the close-up shots on Jessic Paré seem to be panning, which makes the light blobs in background distracting. It’s a completely bizarre decision to do this, probably based on the acquired wisdom that pans look professional. It’s just another undercooked aspect of this picture, but technically it seems like the crew generally consists of professionals. And that is a desperate attempt to find something positive to say.
The reversion to conventions comes early enough in the film – when Gleeson’s skiffle band wins back Jessica Paré’s affection in a gay bar – and for the last fifteen minutes the film-makers are just tapping their feet waiting for the ending to arrive. In a way it’s nice to have a film we can point to now and say “this is exactly the kind of thing we don’t want to make”. So congratulations to Standby on setting the industry standard on what an Irish film shouldn’t look like. In cinemas 13 November 2014. Watch the trailer here.