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PARIS — Romantic comedy is clearly identified worldwide as an all-American genre. “My Life Is Not a Romantic Comedy” is a French attempt to add a Gallic touch to the recipe. It works out quite well. In fact, the debut feature by Marc Gibaja quotes openly some successes of the ’80s and ’90s, such as “When Harry Met Sally” or “Sleepless in Seattle.” But the adaptation to the French environment undoubtedly adds a cynical touch and cold humor to the romance.
An eloquent example of the characterization of a classical situation is how and where the two characters meet: at the supermarket, in front of the toilet paper. This awkward setting — chosen to illustrate the French poster — clearly states the film is not always going to be of the finest taste. Some sequences, especially those involving the hero’s best friend, a fat guy working as a videogame tester who keeps eating potato chips, are borderline gross humor. Overall the film is really funny, which could, together with the interest worldwide audiences have for the genre, open markets to this low-key movie.
After the opening sequence in which Thomas is dumped by his girlfriend, the film, like every good romantic comedy, really gets started when the two characters meet. So there he is meeting Florence, an old and forgotten friend from school, who invites her for dinner in the splendid house her husband is so proud of. Thomas makes a mess during dinner, and causes a separation between the spouses. It will take the whole movie for Thomas and Florence to understand they were made for each other.
The directing is not particularly remarkable except for the funny documentary-like New York based sequences of the end credits. Mostly, the film relies on terrific actors’ performances. Good news: Gilles Lellouche and Marie Gillain are at their best. Lellouche has somehow become the new ordinary face of commercial French cinema, alternating villain parts in thrillers (“Tell No One”) and supporting roles in big productions (“Paris”, “Family Hero”). He obviously took a lot of pleasure in portraying a loser who will be saved by love. The sequence in which he sings Sinatra’s “Let’s Fall in Love” is a must-see. Marie Gillain has the freshness of her sparkling eyes. She is astonishing in avoiding cliches as the model wife torn between her newly born love and the voice of wisdom.
With its homage sequences on the edge of pastiche (such as a walk in the forest on a ground covered with autumn leaves), its omnipresent jazzy music and its conscientious respect of all the codes of romantic comedies, “My Life” proves some American formulas are better exported than others.
MY LIFE IS NOT A ROMANTIC COMEDY
Agat Films & Cie, France 3 Cinema, StudioCanal
Director: Marc Gibaja
Writers: Marc Gibaja, Laurent Sarfati
Producer: Nicolas Blanc
Director of photography: Gilles Porte
Production designer: Severine Baehrel
Costume designers: Chouchane Abello-Tcherpachian, Cecile Dulac, Claire Begin
Editors: Sabine Emiliani
Music: Vincent Courtois
Thomas Walkowic: Gilles Lellouche
Florence Baron: Marie Gillain
Gros Bill: Laurent Ournac
Lisa: Stephanie Sokolinski
Pascal: Philippe Lefebvre
Secretaire Super Gamer: Frederique Bel
Running time — 92 minutes
No MPAA rating
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