'Up for Love' ('Un homme à la hauteur'): SIFF Review

Courtesy of Seattle International Film Festival
A wholly commercial rom-com adaptation of an Argentine hit.

Jean Dujardin, thanks to digital effects, plays a 4-foot-5 man wooing a normal-height woman.

Prince Charming is 20 or so inches shorter than expected in Up for Love, Laurent Tirard's story of a woman (Virginie Efira) struggling to accept the bemused looks she gets when out on the town with her new boyfriend (The Artist's Jean Dujardin). Remaking Corazon de Leon, a 2014 film by Argentina's Marcos Carnevale, Tirard sticks close to that hit's formula for better and worse, offering a lightweight crowd-pleaser whose deeper impulses are sometimes undercut by middlebrow choices. The reliably charming Dujardin helps prospects with Stateside moviegoers for a pic that belongs in art houses only because of its subtitles.

Dujardin plays Alexandre, who meets Diane (Efira) on the telephone one night and charms her, convincing her to meet him for lunch — but not warning her to expect a 4-foot-5 tall man. He accepts her uneasiness with élan, confidently coercing her into joining him for an after-lunch surprise: When we see the two strapped into parachutes for a first-date skydive, viewers will understand that, whatever the language, they're watching the Hollywoodiest rom-com of the year.

As much as she soon comes to love his company, Diane remains uneasy about how others will see this mismatched couple. She's especially worried about the opinion of ex-husband Bruno (Cedric Kahn), who is still a partner in her legal practice. A real woman in this situation might also struggle with some guilty self-doubt, but let's face it: Alexandre is dashingly handsome, charming, rich and considerate to a nearly superhuman degree; choosing to be with him will hardly qualify Diane for sainthood.

In their usually successful efforts to pepper this fledgling romance with laughs, Tirard and co-writer Gregoire Vigneron sometimes lean much too hard on how discombobulated others are by Alexandre's height. When Diane tells her mother (Manoelle Gaillard) she has fallen in love with him, the woman not only turns the wrong way onto a highway but keeps going against the stream of traffic for many blocks. In its most heavy-handed choice (drawn from the original), the film underlines and highlights Mom's hypocrisy by making her husband a deaf man — that disability is different, she seems to think, because nobody can see it at a party.

Some will see the pic itself as a dubious champion of tolerance, as it casts a well-liked actor of normal height in the leading role, then scales him down digitally. If producers couldn't fall in love with an actual little person for the part, why should Diane?

But Dujardin's tasteful performance gives weight to the script's attempts to voice the pain of lifelong ostracism. And few in the crowd (little people aside) will be taking this ingredient very seriously in the first place. In Up for Love, being small is just like any other impediment to romantic bliss: nothing a few good laughs, warmth and a dramatic gesture of reconciliation can't fix in the end.

Venue: Seattle International Film Festival
Production company: Gaumont
Cast: Jean Dujardin, Virginie Efira, Cedric Kahn, Manoelle Gaillard
Director: Laurent Tirard
Screenwriters: Laurent Tirard, Gregoire Vigneron
Producers: Vanessa Van Zuylen, Sidonie Dumas
Executive producers: Matthias Ehrenberg, Jose Levy
Director of photography: Jerome Alméras
Production designer: Francoise Dupertuis
Costume designer: Valerie Artiges-Corno
Editor: Valerie Deseine
Composer: Eric Neveux, Emielie Gassin
Casting director: Etienne Beck
Sales: Gaumont

In French

Not rated, 97 minutes

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