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We'll Never Have Paris: SXSW Review

We'll Never Have Paris SXSW - H 2014
SXSW

The Bottom Line

Genial but not wholly persuasive rom-com

Venue

South By Southwest Film Festival, Narrative Spotlight

Cast

Simon Helberg, Maggie Grace, Melanie Lynskey, Alfred Molina, Zachary Quinto, Jason Ritter, Ebon Moss-Bachrach

Directors

Jocelyn Towne, Simon Helberg

Jocelyn Towne and Simon Helberg fictionalize the story of their own mishap-strewn courtship.

AUSTIN -- Husband and wife Simon Helberg and Jocelyn Towne fictionalize the true-life obstacles they faced in We'll Never Have Paris, a rom-com about a man-child who can't manage to propose to his long-term girlfriend without inadvertently breaking up with her. Helberg plays himself as Quinn (Melanie Lynskey's Devon stands in for Towne), and the success of the film depends on viewers' embrace of a character whose neurotic fretfulness, indecision and nerves have been exaggerated for comic effect. The actor/director/writer's Big Bang Theory fame (along with some high-profile costars) will help the film commercially, even if the jury remains out on Helberg's merits as a leading man.

PHOTOS: The Scene at SXSW 2014

Quinn has envisioned marrying Devon for years, but when he finally decides to propose he's so unassertive she doesn't even know what he's doing. Bemoaning his failure to coworker Kelsey (Maggie Grace), a lithe blonde who's far out of his league, he gets an unexpected and problematic consolation: "I might be in love with you a little bit," she says. Soon she's more certain, and Quinn's in trouble.

Unable to fully ignore the possibility of sex with such a woman, Quinn stumbles into a breakup with Devon; he's similarly inept when, after an awkward encounter with Kelsey, his attempt to reunite goes beautifully until it nosedives. Devon leaves to find herself in Paris.

After a bit of floundering and half-hearted advice from a preoccupied rich-kid friend (Zachary Quinto), Quinn tracks down Devon's address and goes to Paris to surprise her -- only to find she's being courted by Guillaume (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), whose array of talents and old-world cultural connections might as well be designed solely to foster panic in an insecure American. In a chaotic sequence that marks the film's high point, Quinn crashes a dinner party and bares his soul, ultimately provoking yet another disaster.

Still, Devon spends some bittersweet time with her former boyfriend, showing him around picturesque spots and patiently nursing him through an encounter with a crepe that his delicate system can't take. The soundtrack, full of hip French pop, is an ironic reminder of the delightful vacation the two might have had if Quinn weren't such a screw-up.

Lynskey's performance is sympathetic, but the movie doesn't fully convince us in its dramatization of her responses to Quinn's large and small blunders. The character comes across as less a participant in their relationship than a script device built to prod him into growing up. "How do I be a man?," Quinn miserably asks no one in a Parisian chapel. The answer the movie eventually provides is pretty lightweight, even if it pushes the right feel-good buttons.

 

Production Company: Dog-Eared Pictures

Cast: Simon Helberg, Melanie Lynskey, Maggie Grace, Alfred Molina, Zachary Quinto, Jason Ritter, Ebon Moss-Bachrach

Directors: Jocelyn Towne, Simon Helberg

Screenwriter: Simon Helberg

Producers: Katie Mustard, Robert Ogden Barnum, Jocelyn Towne, Simon Helberg

Executive producers: Marc Platt, Judd Rubin, Cassian Elwes, Carrie Menke, Hollis Hill, Rodney Baty, Daniel Baur, Oliver Simon, Daniel Wagner, Kevin Frakes, Zulfikar Guzelgun, Steffan Aumeller

Director of photography: Polly Morgan

Production designer: Alexandra Schaller

Music: Alexis & Sam

Costume designer: Rebecca Luke

Editor: Mollie Goldstein

Sales: Rena Ronson and Hailey Wierengo, UTA

No rating, 91 minutes