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STUDIO: First Look Studios
RUNNING TIME: 111 Minutes
A modern mash-up of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Trouble In Paradise. In French.
Sorry Alex Billington!
Audrey Tatou, Gad Elmaleh
Jean is a hapless dog walker/hotel clerk/bartender at a posh hotel on the French Riviera, spending most of his time being ignored by everyone and anyone he comes into contact with. By a twist of fate, the beautiful Irene believes him to be a man of considerable means, and due to her taste for the finer things in life (and the old men who tend to come with it) she locks in on what she thinks is a golden opportunity to get out of gold-digging for good. When she discovers the awful truth she’s disgusted, but Jean is in love. He hopes to sweep her off her feet, but Irene shows him just how quickly he’d become destitute trying to keep up with the lifestyle she’s accustomed to. To spoil anymore of the plot from there would be foolhardy.
Stylish, sleek and above all else it helps effectively hide his cranial Quatto.
It’s wonderful to have the adult sex/romantic comedy proven to be alive after so many years of worrying that it had gone extinct with the expatriate directors from overseas who brought their special brand of sophistication and wit to their efforts in Hollywood’s golden years. Comedies revolving around human beings coupling these days are either excessively maudlin and romantic trying to harvest unearned sentiment through overbearing music cues and partially drawn out character work or go the opposite direction and have people eat jizz-covered toquitos or vomit on a grandma. So a work of exquisite timing with fantastic efforts on all fronts feels like something of a minor miracle. And one that probably slipped pretty heavily under the radar in 2008.
“This is a special glimpse you’re getting right here. Not everybody gets a chance to see the butter knife with which I spread cocoa butter on my pubes. You’re in rarified territory my friend.”
This is the first time I’ve seen Audrey Tatou in a role that required her to play it like an adult, with genuine sexuality at the forefront, and she handles the part admirably. She handles the character’s elegance with aplomb and also helps the audience truly feel that she is learning that there is more to life that just money and objects, as trite as that message may be. Her fantastic work in slowly letting the veneer down would all be for naught if she didn’t have an equally capable actor working alongside her, generating genuine chemistry. Luckily, Gad Elmaleh is more than up to the task. He’s an unknown commodity to most Americans I would wager (although that could change with upcoming work in the Tintin movie), but he is the heart and soul of this movie. His comedic timing is impeccable and he can play charming and awkward with equal dexterity. The slow courtship between the two at the heart of this picture is anchored by very solid work on both of their parts.
In an attempt to evade autograph hounds, Robert Loggia’s public disguises took a rather drastic turn.
And equally skilled at assisting these performances is Pierre Salvadori’s direction which is light to the touch and seems deceptively simple. He shows that the Lubitsch touch isn’t some ephemeral quality limited to just its namesake, it’s the ability to convey information about the characters, their motivations and the mechanics of the plot without calling particular attention to it. There’s simple visual clues that accumulate throughout the movie and inform and are informed by the characters and who they are. The direction elegantly pulled off throughout, and it gives the vibe of effortlessness that can only come with great amounts of effort. The cherry on top of all of this is that the script is excellent and truly continues to bob and weave throughout, confounding the formula by not putting up artificial roadblocks to the character’s happiness but still adhering to it by keeping them apart with wholly believable reasons for doing so. It’s superbly crafted from top to bottom.
Just a small taste of the some of the directorial touches throughout the picture.
It may seem like I’m lavishing this film with effusive praise, but it’s truly worthy of the plaudits I’m heaping upon it. It’s a perfect date movie and one of the best romantic comedies I’ve seen in recent years. It proves that the Lubitsch touch didn’t die along with him and other directors of his ilk and helps me to keep the faith that genuine artfully crafted pieces of entertainment can still be made in this current day and age. Highest recommendation for one of the best films of 2008.
The cover art is plain, but it knows where its bread is buttered with American audiences, so I have to at least give them that. The glowing flower is a little puzzling, though. The disc looks great which is important for a film that is trying to immerse the viewer in a golden-hued upper-crust lifestyle without making it seem garish, though unfortunately there are no extras to speak of (only the trailers). Even so, this is worth picking up (even in a blind buy) if you’re a fan of great filmmaking.
“Oh god, there’s Jean-Pierre again. He keeps hounding me to make Amelie 2: Twee Harder.”