There will always be an enthusiastic audience that equates subtitles with sophistication. Lately, however, I have come to slot the French romantic comedy, with its lead man a gauche mixture of Mister Bean and Frank Spencer, into the no-go zone. It’s all a matter of what tickles your funny bone – I was surrounded by women who laughed like drains in the first half of this – but if slapstick that is composed of a klutz who jumps around a lot and a beautiful woman who falls over at the drop of a hat is not your café au lait you might struggle with this.
As a slow reader, and because film is essentially a visual medium, it took me a while to pick up the rhythm and, when I did, I was irritated by the sequence that introduces Sacha (Gad Elmaleh) to Charlotte (Sophie Marceau). It’s pouring with rain and both get drenched. Their eyes meet, she agrees to adjourn with him for a drink and, voila, they’re sitting in a cosy bar, neatly coiffed and in clothes previously soaking but now as dry as a bone. It’s only a movie, I had to remind myself – but really.
Sacha is a fabulous pianist at a happening Paris night spot. Women can’t resist him and, also like Charlie Sheen in Two And A Half Men, he makes a euro from writing advertising jingles. He’s not interested in settling down and he can’t stand kids – which is gratifying – but with buddy Laurent (Maurice Barthélémy) he’s working on a career-changing stage show.
L’amour conquers his world after the Charlotte incident. As a feminist, she is a dumb broad who is still under the thumb of the father of her children, from whom she’s been long separated. Of the kids, Sacha observes that one is a dead ringer for Philip Seymour Hoffman – it’s his best line. Professional ambition and emotional fulfilment come into happy alignment as the plot goes from threadbare to nauseating. Paris is beautiful, but we already knew that.