Yvan Attal, as the writer director of this French meander about marriage,
does one thing right and one wrong. Putting Charlotte Gainsbourg's fresh
vitality on screen is a good thing, indeed. The tortuous marriage that he
creates for her, however, is some kind of blatant misfire.
To characterize it, an early sequence shows a game they play. Gabrielle
(Gainsbourg) has a drink at a bar. A man puts moves on her. She dresses
the poor guy down by hammering him about what he wants and the futility of the
enterprise, spicing up her harangue with her phone number. Another man steps
up to the bar, invites her for a drink and winds up plucking her from the
This guy turns out to be Vincent (Yvan Attal), her husband. They act as
though hormones are pulsing through their bodies as they drive home, he
unable to stop kissing and fondling, she barely able to put her key in the
door. O'boy, this is going to be a sex scene out of the Kamasutra.
They open the door, pay off their babysitter and go about their routine
matters. The passion has not only dissipated, it's less than a memory. We
been robbed! To say "unrealized" is to characterize the movie as a whole.
Vincent hangs with a couple of fortiesh pals. Each has his problems. George
(Alain Chabat) is in a marathon argument with his gorgeous wife Nathalie
(Emmanuelle Seigner), making him envious of men unshackled by demanding,
feminist wives. He'd be especially envious of Fred (Alain Cohen), still
single, still totally liberated and straight and taking every advantage of
it-- if he could only understand Fred's sex appeal. We, the onlookers, have
the same problem.
The male bond is sustained by adolescent talk of sex, freedom and conquest.
Perhaps it's a French thing, but it's inane and utterly devoid of dramatic
challenge, even if Vincent is being unfaithful. The emptiness that Gabrielle
is feeling, however, generated more by the actress' performance skills than
the content of her torpid script, can't quite make emotional tension out of
it. While this mother's love of her child is total, the marriage is empty.
One day she's shopping for music at a Virgin Megastore. While listening to a
track at a sampling station, a man (uncredited Johnny Depp) steps up and puts
on headphones. As they listen together their eyes meet, but the meaning of
it seems to be one-sided. She's aroused enough to chase after him but he
seems merely friendly. To so totally reject a lady with Gainsborough's looks
might mean he's very happy at home. Or, that auteur Attal simply doesn't
want to venture too far from the comforts of his vague narrative.
The level at which it can be appreciated is in its ordinary, slyly amusing
quality. But, for most of us (the French included), amusement isn't a
substitute for the dramatic potential of marital mismatch or dissatisfaction.
The main reason to see it is to witness a fine lady making the most of what
she's been given to play.
~~ Jules Brenner