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PARIS — Rip a bunch of pages out of the Hollywood romantic comedy playbook, insert them into Google Translate, throw in a pair of 30-something Parisians and lots of jazz and Motown standards, and what do you get?
Something very close to Alexandre Castagnetti’s Stand by Love (Amour & turbulences), a high-concept Gallic comedy that’s definitely high on all its American influences — not to mention a certain polish — but otherwise low on originality and likability, especially when it comes to its leading couple. Co-stars Ludivine Sagnier and Nicolas Bedos should help yield reasonable returns for this local Universal release, although box office will fall short of Heartbreaker, Love Lasts Three Years and the recent It Boy — all of which did a better job adapting the studio formula en français.
Based on an original screenplay by U.S.-based actor-scribe Vincent Angell (24, Californication), with six additional credited writers (including the director and Bedos), Stand by Love offers yet another take on the classic comedy of remarriage, with the added twist that much of the story is set onboard a flight from New York to Paris. (And, of course, in first class. “Who wants to be stuck with two losers in coach?” the filmmakers seem to be saying.)
It’s just before takeoff that hotshot skirt-chasing lawyer, Antoine (Bedos), and hotheaded artist, Julie (Sagnier), find themselves sitting side by side, which is pretty inconvenient considering they went through a nasty breakup three years prior. For the rest of the movie, the action shifts between the seven-hour voyage, with its many bouts of anger and turbulence (thus the rather unsubtle French title), and flashbacks revealing how the two lovebirds met, fell in love, and eventually fell out of step.
Although the construction is fairly solid, if not always inspired, the problem lies more with the two main characters, neither of who are particularly interesting or affable. Antoine is basically your typical narcissistic French a-hole, whose only positive attribute seems to be his wardrobe and walk-in closet. Julie, meanwhile, is an aspiring artist whose work, consisting of mixed media sculptures that are as kitschy as they are crappy, leaves little hope that she’ll make it in that field, even if we’re supposed to believe in her from the get-go.
Spending more than 90 minutes with these two is therefore somewhat of a chore, and while TV vet Bedos (Populaire) and auteur sweetheart Sagnier (Beloved, A Secret) deliver strong performances, with the former tossing out a few zingers, it’s hard to hope their characters will finally get back together, especially since they’re even more insufferable every time that happens in the flashbacks.
Castagnetti manages to cover up some of the unpleasantness with his slick and fast-paced direction, which keeps things moving along during the set-up but grows tiring when, during the final stages, he attempts a few Michel Gondry-esque flights of fancy.
Alongside a busy score by Nicolas Wauquiez, the soundtrack features blues-y ballads by Dinah Washington and Nancy Wilson, upbeat R&B tracks by Esther Phillips, The Elgins and The Trinikas, yet practically nothing from France — further proof as to why this transatlantic trip remains more or less grounded at JFK.
Production companies: Reverence, Manchester Films, Thelma Films
Cast: Ludivine Sagnier, Nicolas Bedos, Jonathan Cohen, Arnaud Ducret, Brigitte Catillon
Director: Alexandre Castagnetti
Screenwriters: Vincent Angell, Nirina Ralanto, Brigitte Bemol, Julien Simonet, Xavier Nemo, Alexandre Castagnetti, Nicolas Bedos
Producers: Mathieu Robinet, Julien Ralanto, Catherine Bozorgan, Christine Gozlan, David Poirot
Director of photography: Yannick Ressigeac
Production designer: Francois Emmanuelli
Costume designer: Emmanuelle Youchnovski
Music: Nicolas Wauquiez, Evymoon
Editor: Scott Stevenson
No rating, 96 minutes
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