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You would think that the French have had enough of the cliche that they’re a nation of well-dressed, well-bred horndogs, but then comes Sex, Love & Therapy (‘Tu veux ou tu veux pas’), a vaguely high-concept rom-com about two Parisian therapists who are so obsessed about getting into the sack with anyone they meet, they can’t ever get it on with each other. Hardly funny despite a few decent one-liners early on, and hardly sexy despite an eternally young Sophie Marceau (LOL) in the lead role, this latest effort from distaff writer-director Tonie Marshall feels about as a fresh as a condom that expired sometime back in the late 90s.
It was then that Marshall had a breakout hit with her salon-set chick flick, Venus Beauty, which introduced Audrey Tautou to the public a few years before Amelie. (It was also co-written by A Prophet director Jacques Audiard.) But since then the filmmaker has definitely lost her groove, with her last feature, 2008’s Off and Running, pulling in middling reviews and numbers. And while the combo of sex and Sophie may draw local audiences for its first-frame, it’s hard to see this Warner Bros. France release becoming a box office mainstay, while overseas presales will help give it a soft boost in select European markets.
After an animated title sequence that features, among other things, a nipple transforming into a heart, we’re introduced to 40-something sex addict, Judith (Marceau), who’s just been fired from her sales exec job in Asia for sleeping with every single male client, though not with a female one. (That a sex addict could be anything but hetero is something that seems to exist beyond Marshall’s worldview, which is limited here to several straight and well-off white people living in huge homes in the center of Paris.)
Back in the City of Lights and shacked up with her uncle (Andre Willms), Judith lands a job as a psychologist at a couples therapy clinic, partnering up with Lambert (Patrick Bruel), a former Air France pilot and notorious booty hound who’s taken a vow of abstinence as a means to find true happiness. But when he sees Judith, who arrives for work the first day with only one thing on her mind, he quickly goes “from six to midnight” (to quote Forgetting Sarah Marshall), unable to concentrate on the job while doing all he can to ignore the endless advances of his fellow shrink.
Admittedly, the idea is a fun one, even if Marshall and co-scribe Nicolas Mercier (Grand Depart) never explain how two untrained psychotherapists are able to practice the profession together, offering up what’s basically useless advice to a bunch of patients who are brought in every few scenes for supposed comic relief. What’s more, they give us two characters whom are both too childish and too selfish to invest in, building up a romance that few in the audience can relate to on any feasible level.
Marceau has certainly done some silly things over the course of her career, which has recently consisted of several passable-to-forgettable efforts (Quantum Love, Happiness Never Comes Alone, Arrest Me) catering to her dwindling Gallic fan base. But she does stuff here that may be beyond repair, such as an early scene where Judith has an orgasm in the middle of the street when she pecks Lambert on the lips, or another where she justifies her crude behavior with the line: “I’m a human being. With a vagina.” Or else there’s the scene where she tells the childhood sob story that made her a sex fiend, confessing at a bar to a man who’s fully dressed as a squirrel. Huh?
How Marshall thought she’d wring laughs out of this material is anyone’s guess, and Bruel (What’s in a Name?) does little to help out, playing a charmless, middle-aged Pepe Le Pew who “refuses to have sex without love,” until he inevitably falls off the wagon in a sequence where a bunch of women eagerly line up to shag Lambert in the bathroom of a nightclub, and then take selfies with him afterward.
Beyond one or two good lines, including a pun on former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s “work more to make more” mantra, there’s nothing else salvageable here, and that extends to TV-style tech credits depicting a completely Caucasian Paris which – like the film’s leading couple – has little to do with current realities. The French slang term for this is “ringard,” which means unfashionable, though in the case of Sex, Love & Therapy, it’s more like unfathomable, and most certainly, unfunny.
Production companies: Tabo Tabo Films, Arena Productions, CineFrance 1888, TF1 Films Production, Entre Chien et Loup
Cast: Sophie Marceau, Patrick Bruel
Director: Tonie Marshall
Screenwriters: Tonie Marshall, Nicolas Mercier
Producers: Tonie Marshall, Bruno Pesery
Director of photography: Pascal Ridao
Production designer: Thierry Francois
Costume designer: Laure Villemer
Editors: Jacques Comets, Stan Collet
Composers: Philippe Cohen-Solal, Christophe Chassol, Loik Dury
Casting director: Nicolas Ronchi
Sales: SND/Groupe M6
No rating, 88 minutes
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