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Irish Wish Will Make You Wish You Could Turn Back Time — And Watch Something Else

This reality-bending rom-com is no Freaky Friday, or even Falling for Christmas.
  • Ed Speleers, Lindsay Lohan, and Alexander Vlahos in Irish Wish (Photo: Netflix)
    Ed Speleers, Lindsay Lohan, and Alexander Vlahos in Irish Wish (Photo: Netflix)

    An Irish coffee is made with whisky and cream. An Irish goodbye is when someone leaves a gathering unnoticed. The Irish stew mixes root vegetables with either lamb or mutton. With her latest Netflix romance, director Janeen Damian aims to add yet another concept to popular notions of Irishness: the Irish wish. Now, will it catch? Unlikely.

    The titular wish in Irish Wish is made by Maddie (Lindsay Lohan), an American book editor besotted with Paul Kennedy (Alexander Vlahos), a pompous Irish writer whose latest book became a worldwide success, thanks to Maddie’s uncredited penmanship. Because such love stories rarely go to plan, just as Maddie is about to profess her feelings, Paul locks eyes with the editor’s bubbly childhood best friend Emma (Elizabeth Tan), and sparks fly.

    Cut to a few months (and montages) later and Maddie has a plane ticket in hand and a bridesmaid dress in the bulky suitcase that fate employs to lead her to James (Ed Speelers), an English photographer who sees himself as a bougie nomad despite being impeccably groomed and lugging away pretty robust luggage. Alas, the meet-cute that lays the flimsy foundations for the enemies-to-lovers dynamics between the editor and the photographer does little to shake Maddie’s steadfast belief that it should be her walking down the aisle to the flamboyant Irish author.

    And thus, while wandering off by the scenic lake on the cover of Paul’s bestseller, Maddie sends her heart’s desires to the wind, oblivious to the fact she just sat on the mythical stone bench where lies mischievous Saint Brigid (Dawn Bradfield) — a nook of mythology plucked straight from Outlander. Like a genie in a bottle, the saint grants the American a wish and, kapoof, a cherry blossom tree shakes and Maddie’s wildest dreams come true.

    Much like in 2000s classic Freaky Friday, Lohan wakes up in a different reality — she inhabits the same body this time, but her life is turned upside down. However, much differently from Freaky Friday, Maddie’s journey offers very little respite from the march towards the film’s guiding moral lesson of “be careful what you wish for,” with Irish Wish playing as a contrived sequence of events void of any sliver of the spontaneity that is vital to the success of a classic rom-com.

    Even worse, the relationship between Maddie and James plays second fiddle to that of Paul and Emma, who not only have much more of a palpable chemistry but are people whose flaws are exposed in greater detail and therefore have a much more satisfying character arc. Compared to Maddie and James, one-dimensional characters unable to reveal anything about themselves apart from their frustrations with the lifestyle their artistic practice has afforded them, both Paul and Emma are a delight to watch — the over-the-top pretender with an affected accent and a flair for tartan jackets, and his perfect match, the lively go-getter who cannot wait to become the madam of the impossibly lavish Kennedy estate but whose ambition never murks the clear love she nurtures for the spoiled heir.

    And then there’s Ireland, a country home to modern classics such as Leap Year and P.S. I Love You and a land that marries breathtaking natural beauty with a wealth of mythology, a match made in romance heaven. Still, not even the beauty of the Cliffs of Moher can propel the lovers at the heart of Irish Wish towards a moment of genuine tenderness, their yearning so painstakingly choreographed the only thing that might motivate someone to root for their happy ending is a desire to see Paul and Emma get theirs.

    Maddie’s overstuffed inner monologues are interspersed by heart-to-hearts with her schoolmaster mother (a fresh of breath air in the shape of Jane Seymour) and fellow bridesmaid Heather (not so much a fresh of breath air in Ayesha Curry), a seesawing that only exacerbates the notion of Maddie’s life as a Truman Show-esque spectacle that exists in complete isolation from reality. Lohan’s performance does little to turn such alienation into the fairytale Irish Wish promises from its opening scene, the actress failing to tap into the charm of not only her iconic early 2000s roles but her most recent collaboration with Damian, the clumsy but endearing Netflix festive romance Falling for Christmas.

    Yet, Irish Wish is somehow successful, as it alerts all of those who have long awaited a romantic comedy starring Lindsay Lohan in the beautiful country of Ireland that one should be very, very careful about what they wish for.

    Irish Wish is now streaming on Netflix.

    Rafa is a film programmer and journalist with words on Variety, BBC Culture, Sight & Sound and more. You can find her @rafiews.

    TOPICS: Irish Wish, Netflix, Alexander Vlahos, Ed Speleers, Lindsay Lohan