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Thanks to a sparkling ensemble headed by Francois Cluzet and Marion Cotillard, the familiar backdrop still provides ample opportunity for audience pleasing in Guillaume Canet‘s nicely observed dramatic comedy.
The problem is, the film, which has its world premiere at Toronto, ultimately loses much of its effervescence as it goes on — and on — eventually passing the two-and-a-half-hour mark.
With its popular cast, that won’t be a cause for concern when the picture opens in France next month, but the all-too-noticeable length will likely be an issue for North American consumption.
A tighter edit could help matters considerably.
There are deliberate echoes of The Big Chill, and by extension, The Return of the Secaucus Seven in Canet’s screenplay, which has a group of mainly thirtysomethings again gathering at a lovely summer beach house, even though one of their group (Jean Dujardin) remains back in intensive care after a very serious motorcycle accident.
Not that they’re going to be enjoying themselves, anyway.
Their somewhat older host, Max (Cluzet) is more uptight than even usual after his good friend and chiropractor, Vincent (Benoit Magimel) informs him that he’s fallen deeply in love with the successful businessman, even though both are happily married with children.
But the others have their own problems, including the pining Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) who drives the group crazy trying to decipher an ex-girlfriend’s cryptic text messages; and Marie (Cotillard) an ethnologist by occupation and a commitment-phobe by reputation.
Their ailing friend’s absence will eventually weigh heavily on their collective conscience, but first they’re going to have to confront their own respective drama.
If it all sounds a bit, well, dramatic, there’s actually plenty of crisp comedy to temper the heavier stuff, at least in the earlier going, with bright, energetic turns from Cluzet and the ever-lovely, always genuine Cotillard.
But her real-life partner, Canet, has difficulty maintaining the film’s finely calibrated tragic-comedic balance in the heavily maudlin third act, much to its detriment.
Further weighing down the proceedings is a jukebox full of English-language song selections providing the “Big Chill”-style soundtrack and running the gamut from Creedence Clearwater Revival to Nina Simone, that too often serve to underscore the obvious.
Venue: Toronto International Film Festival
Production companies: Les Productions de Tresor/Europacorp
Cast: Francois Cluzet, Marion Cotillard, Benoit Magimel
Director-screenwriter: Guillaume Canet
Executive producer: Hugo Selignac
Producer: Alain Attal
Director of photography: Christophe Offenstein
Production designer: Philippe Chiffre
Costume designer: Carine Sarfati
Editor: Herve De Luze
Rating: No MPAA rating, 154 minutes
Sales agent: Europa Corp.
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