5 to 7: Tribeca Review

5 to 7 Still Tribeca - H 2014
Tribeca Film Festival

5 to 7 Still Tribeca - H 2014

Lush romance makes good use of old-fashioned Manhattan glamour.

Anton Yelchin plays a young writer having a whirlwind affair that will inspire his first novel.

NEW YORK – "Your favorite story, whatever it might be, was written for one reader," declares the protagonist of Victor Levin's 5 to 7, the tale of an aspiring writer who finds his muse in a deep but not-quite-storybook love affair. Sumptuous and romantic in an attractively old-fashioned way despite a hitch designed to give some contemporary American idealists pause -- the writer's lover is married, with no interest in divorce -- the film satisfies in a wholly commercial way. Anton Yelchin's endearing lead turn will help draw attention in theaters, even if the film's defining characteristic is its willfully simplified take on two staples of big-screen romance: A New York City where people live more luxuriously than real mortals; and a French way of life whose flexibility in matters of love, we're told, affords a much richer and congenial existence.

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Yelchin's Brian has been collecting rejection letters from the nation's finest publications since graduation, writing stories based on very little life experience while ignoring suggestions from his parents (Frank Langella and Glenn Close) that he go to law school. Walking past the St. Regis Hotel one afternoon, he is drawn to the exotically French Arielle (Berenice Marlohe) and does a passably smooth job of chatting her up; they meet again, and when he eventually suggests a proper date, she says she's free any day between 5 and 7.

When he learns that this is an old French way of saying "I'm married," Brian very classily turns down her offer. But his moral stance doesn't take. Soon, they're spending two hours a day at the St. Regis, falling deeply in love while Arielle's husband Valery (Lambert Wilson) visits his own mistress, Jane (Olivia Thirlby). Not only do husband and wife acknowledge these affairs, they treat the extra-curricular lovers like family: Valery, a French cultural emissary of some sort, invites Brian to a dinner party with real-world celebrities; Brian takes the couple's two children to the park, where one of the tots confides, "I'm so happy you're my mother's boyfriend."

Understandably weirded out, Brian gets some coaching from Jane. It's hard to say whether the film actually subscribes to this advice, but Thirlby delivers it with matter-of-fact sophistication: Life is more complicated than your simple moral rules; we're too young to be worried about marriage-type relationships anyway; appreciate this experience while it lasts and let it make you a better writer. There may be some wisdom in her words, but this can not end well; then again, how many great works of art have sprung from things not ending well for their creators?

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Arnaud Potier's photography, dreamily hazy and heavy on silhouette shots, helps convey the lost-in-time feeling of a relationship that is both seriously sexy and convincingly tender. Arielle's intense attachment to an unworldly man nine years her junior, however charmingly guileless, plays more than a bit like a youth's wish-fulfillment fantasy, but Marlohe is sufficiently invested to make one feel like a spoilsport for questioning the plausibility of her love. (As for questioning the scenario's morality, a few comically ornery scenes with Langella speak for those among us who believe in monogamy.)

Levin, making his feature directing debut, does especially well in the stretch during which this ensemble's happy arrangement falls apart -- with sentiments and certitudes in flux, the film is at its most distinctive. But he knows how to wrap things up for the sentimental crowd, and a swelling-strings moment at the end feels, in a pleasing way, like the end of a half-dozen of one's favorite bittersweet romances.

Production: Mockingbird Pictures, Demarest Films

Cast: Anton Yelchin, Berenice Marlohe, Lambert Wilson, Olivia Thirlby, Frank Langella, Glenn Close

Director-Screenwriter: Victor Levin

Producers: Julie Lynn, Bonnie Curtis, Sam Englebardt, William D. Johnson

Director of photography: Arnaud Potier

Production designer: Jeannine Oppewall

Costume designer: Heidi Bivens

Editor: Matt Maddox

Music: Danny Bensi, Saunder Jurriaans

Sales: Deborah McIntosh, WME

Not Rated, 96 minutes