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A classic overachiever tries to dispel her one fatal flaw and become the very Best in Bed (A coup sur) in novelist turned director Delphine de Vigan’s debut comedy. Starring relative newcomer Laurence Arne as a business journalist who, after a guy compares sleeping with her to “having sex with a slug,” does all she can to transform herself into the greatest lay in the land, this cleverly pitched effort starts off decently and then, like a lousy one night stand, gets progressively worse the longer it goes on. With Universal distributing in France and nabbing rights for North America, the film should see modest theatrical numbers, but will play best on VOD and late-night cable.
Bestselling author de Vigan broke out on the scene with her 2007 novel No and I (adapted to the screen by actress Zabou Breitman), following it up in 2010 with a prize-winning family memoir, Nothing Holds Back the Night. She also co-penned the screenplay to You Will Be My Son (directed by Gilles Legrand, credited here as producer), a tense vineyard-set drama that performed well in the U.S. when Cohen Media Group released it a few years back.
Taking her first stab behind the lens, the writer displays some skill during her film’s rather subdued set-up stage, but once she busts out the joke bag (whose contents include several blow-up dolls and a remote controlled vibrator), de Vigan reveals herself to be utterly tone deaf when it comes to landing a solid laugh. Likewise, the plot starts off encouragingly and then completely unravels by the third act, going through the motions of a classic rom-com without earning any of the genre’s rewards.
Following a brief childhood flashback, we meet the overzealous 30-ish Emma (Arne), who has recently started work at a waning Paris economics magazine. Sitting across from her is top journo Tristan (Eric Elmosnino), a sly and quick-witted veteran who prefers to write long-winded pieces on microfinance, although the rag’s chief editor (Didier Bezace) seems to think that sex-related subjects are all that sell.
After a routine visit with the dentist leads to a fling, Emma is informed that her bedroom skills are considerably lacking, and decides she needs to perfect them as soon as possible. This entails reading every known book on intercourse, consulting with a pricey escort girl (Julia Faure), a famous male porn star (soap opera actor Damien Ferrette), a wacky sexologist (Francois Morel), as well as using the company’s goofball intern (Jeremy Lopez) as a human dildo for Sunday workouts.
Many of her sources are in fact gleaned from an unwitting Tristan, who himself is researching Parisian sexual mores for an article and begins suspecting Emma of stealing his scoops. The quid pro quo between them plays out for basically the entire movie, as do a host of other misunderstandings, this being the filmmaker’s only clear way to fuel a narrative. As tired as that ruse becomes, the gags grow considerably lamer, with de Vigan milking all she can out of the intern, the vibrator and the porn star, as well as out of a necrophilia barb involving Emma’s brother (Eric Boucher) and sister-in-law (Valerie Bonneton) that she repeats three times over, just to prolong our misery.
Of course, this is all ultimately meant to show that Emma’s quest for coital excellence is a foolish one, and that true love – both of oneself and another – has nothing to do with the perfect fellatio session or Kama Sutra stance. Yet in the end, Best in Bed still feels like an unrelentingly sexist movie, filled with raunchy women using their bodies as a means to achieve something, while men look on in either condemnation or awe. (The film’s rather tasteless French poster features Arne splayed on a bed with tousled hair and a nightie. The tagline reads: “Vertically: Perfect. Horizontally: Can do better.”)
Tech credits are all over the map, with DP Antoine Monod (A Happy Event) getting mileage out of the Paris exteriors but over-lighting many of the indoor scenes, while two credited editors try their best to give rhythm to the film’s sloppy finale. A very busy score by Pascal Sangla is intercut with a laundry list of pop and rock tracks, including songs by contemporary Gallic crooners Julien Dore and Arthur H.
Performances tend to be either quirky or cartoonish, although Arne (Bowling) shows some restraint in the early sections before all the bad jokes get the better of her. But it’s Elmosnino (Gainsbourg: A Heroic Life) who seems to be playing the only sane person in the movie, offering further proof that when it comes to French sex comedies, this is still a man’s world.
Production companies: Epithete Films
Cast: Laurence Arne, Eric Elmosnino, Didier Bezace, Valerie Bonneton, Jeremy Lopez
Director: Delphine de Vigan
Screenwriters: Delphine de Vigan, Chris Esquerre
Producers: Frederic Brillion, Gilles Legrand
Director of photography: Antoine Monod
Production designer: Jean-Marc Tran Tan Ba
Costume designer: Anne-Sophie Gledhill
Music: Pascal Sangla
Editors: Reynald Bertrand, Bernard Sasia
Sales agent: Rezo
No rating, 91 minutes
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