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 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Tuesday September 15, 2020 

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JOFFE, MARK : The Matchmaker

The original script was "crappy" but the changes made it a perfect match for Mark Joffe, the Australian director who made The Matchmaker, he tells PAUL FISCHER.

At first glance, the new Irish romantic comedy, The Matchmaker, might not be an obvious choice for the film's Aussie director, Mark Joffe. The man responsible for such underrated gems as Grievous Bodily Harm, The Great Bookie Robbery, the affectionate Spotswood, as well as his widely praised film version of Cosi, is very picky about what he does. While devoting many years to writing his own script, he put it aside when The Matchmaker came along. "I'm very attracted to that kind of genre", the Russian-born Joffe explains. "And let's face it, the tougher films I did early on hadn't travelled as well as the lighter films, so you tend to get these sort of scripts." The Matchmaker "kinda came from out of the blue" and Joffe would only agree to do it if the script was changed from the original. "When I first read it, let's face it, it was pretty fucking crappy, which is why I'm proud of the film: you wouldn't notice the problems we'd had from the outset."

"When we met her, I really liked her spontaneity and everything about her."

In The Matchmaker, American comedienne Janeane Garofalo plays Marcy Tizard, a second-tier worker for the re-election campaign of Massachusetts senator John McGlory (Jay O. Sanders). Trailing badly in the polls, McGlory and his campaign manager Nick Ward (Denis Leary) come up with a desperate plan to win over the State's Irish vote: McGlory will visit his actual kin in Ireland. The job of finding those kin is left to Marcy, who is sent to the small coastal town of Ballinagra to dig up McGlory's roots. Little does she know that she'll be landing in the middle of the town's annual match-making festival, or that the town's leading matchmaker (Milo O'Shea) has his eye on fixing up Marcy with an enigmatic local fellow, Sean (David O'Hara).

Commenting on the major differences between the initial script he was given and the final draft, Joffe explains that the first version "had an awful amount of exposition in it, the kind of stuff the Americans love. For instance, Garofalo's character might say 'I want to do this'; talk about herself like a lot of American movies go on about. There was a lot of predictable, real sort of cornball stuff, that I just couldn't abide, and I don't want to go into. So I said I'd be interested in making this movie, if we went in a different direction, and made it a lot more modern - groovier - and try and subvert the genre a little bit without affecting the expectations of the audience too much." Part of that subversion was the casting of funny girl Garofalo in the role of leading lady, the anti-romantic heroine, defying convention. "When we met her, I really liked her spontaneity and everything about her. As it turned out, she was not only wonderful, as you can see in the film, but she was also great on a professional level. In some ways, she was a lot like the character, in that she arrived in Ireland, asking herself: where the hell have I landed? She doesn't travel too much. Then after a little while she just loves it and she still talks about it."

"The greatest compliment I've had so far, is that it feels like the film is not directed by an American."

Joffe was aware that in making another film with American characters placed in Ireland, there was a danger in resorting to caricature and stereotype, a fact which some American critics pointed out. "The greatest compliment I've had so far, is that it feels like the film is not directed by an American. As far as I'm concerned, there's nothing worse than being patronising or condescending to a culture, and not being OF that culture, especially using a bit of irony in exploring a cliché. A few of the American film trade critics accused me of portraying the Irish in a very clicheed way, but they missed the whole ironic tone of the film; they're such dickheads. They really didn't have a clue, because we had it re-written by the two lads who wrote the TV series Father Ted, who are both Irish. And they gave it a real, ironic, Irish feel."

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