Marcy Tizard (Janeane Garofalo) is assistant to Senator John McGlory (Jay O. Sanders) from Boston, Massachusetts. In an attempt to court the Irish-American vote in a tough re-election battle, the bumbling senator's chief of staff, Nick (Denis Leary), sends Marcy to Ireland to find McGlory's relatives or ancestors.
Marcy arrives at the fictional village of Ballinagra (Irish: Baile na Grá, literally the Town of Love) as it is preparing for the annual matchmaking festival. She attracts the attention of two rival professional matchmakers, Dermot (Milo O'Shea) and Millie (Rosaleen Linehan), as well as roguish bartender Sean (David O'Hara).
The locals tolerate her genealogical search while trying to match her with various bachelors. Sean tries to woo Marcy despite her resistance to his boorish manners. After they have begun their romance, they return home to Sean's house one afternoon to find his estranged wife Moira (Saffron Burrows) waiting for them. Marcy leaves Sean, upset that he did not disclose his marriage to her.
McGlory and Nick arrive in Ballinagra, although Marcy's been unable to locate any McGlory relatives. McGlory discovers Sean's wife's maiden name is Kennedy and brings her back to Boston as his fiancée just in time for the election, and wins by a small margin. While at the victory party, McGlory's father (Robert Mandan) reveals privately to Marcy that the family is Hungarian, not Irish. The family name had been changed at Ellis Island when they immigrated, but as they settled in Boston with its large Irish population, he never told his son their true lineage.
Sean follows Marcy to Boston, and they reconcile.
The film earned $1,378,930 in its first weekend and had a total gross of $3,392,080 in 705 theatres.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 52% based on reviews from 27 critics, with an average rating of 5.5 out of 10 reviews.
Roger Ebert gives the film 3 out of 4 stars. Ebert praises Garofalo, calling her "one of the most engaging actresses around" and admiring her balance of "her cynical intelligence and the warmth of her smile". Ebert finds the Irish centre of the film charming and says the Boston bookends are distracting.
The Irish Independent notes: "Bad things happen whenever Hollywood and Ireland collide and this rather thin comedy is no exception" but say the film is helped by the central performance of Janeane Garofalo.
In a 2003 interview, when asked what films from her career she was happiest with, Garofalo included The Matchmaker among the few films she mentioned.
Irish music is heard frequently throughout, both as background music and in scenes where it is performed live as when an Irishman (Vincent Walsh) competes for a kiss from Marcy with his sean nós rendition of "Raglan Road".
The soundtrack features "Haunted" by Shane MacGowan and Sinéad O'Connor. "Irish Heartbeat" by Van Morrison and The Chieftains plays over the end credits..