The biggest surprise about “Standby” is that it is a story that hasn’t been attempted before. A J1 romance struggling to conquer the inevitable distances involved. It’s a trope that has affected a hefty percentage of Irish college students given the ubiquity of the US visa summer for most students from these shores.
An unashamedly saccharine rom-com, the feature is the big screen directorial debut of brothers Rob and Ronan Burke, probably best known at present for helming the second series of RTE’s “Damo and Ivor.”
Frustrated skiffle artist Alan (Brian Gleeson, last seen in “The Stag”) struggles his way through another humdrum day as a tourist adviser at Dublin Airport, when chance sends old flame from his student days Alice (“Mad Men’s Jessica Paré) to his desk.
As might be expected, Alice is the one that got away. After a whirlwind romance on Alan’s American sojourn eight years previously, the couple had promised to make a go of things only for Alan to get cold feet and cut ties upon returning home.
So Alice waits on standby for the next flight to New York, and Alan finally seizes the day and takes her on a whistle-stop tour of Dublin landmarks in an attempt to win her heart once more and re-launch his stagnant life.
The problem with “Standby” is that it feels like it’s desperately trying to emulate a genre that is more comfortable emanating from a different country. It’s hardly lacking for company here, almost every facet of our entertainment industry looks abroad with covetous eyes and, more often than not, ends up copying what it sees and making a mess of it.
The problem is also perception. No doubt penniless beatniks in Manhattan Village find Friends a tough pill to swallow with its enormous apartments at minimal rent, but from an Irish perspective, that sitcom is pure comfort entertainment.
As such, “Standby” is an ultra-light comedy that would probably play best abroad. It’s charming and inoffensive; unfortunately, and particularly for those of us intimately acquainted with the capital, much of it doesn’t ring true. From the day’s events (which most tourists would struggle to fit in in three weeks let alone a day) criss-crossing the city erratically, to the cast spouting banalities more suited to a Hugh Grant or Matthew McConaughey, to the protagonists cycling Dublin Bikes two-abreast around College Green without getting mashed under the nearest 46A, it’s just not very Irish, or very Dublin.
It’s difficult to be too hard on something so good-natured however. The two leads are believable and endearing, Francesca Cherruault as Alan’s abrasively Gallic workmate is an underused comic delight, and Dublin itself looks magical. And any movie that features a scene in Temple Bar kebab Mecca ‘Zaytoon’ can’t be all that bad.
A grudging recommendation then, though the hard of heart would be best advised to give “Standby” a wide berth.