‘Chic!’: Film Review

Courtesy of StudioCanal
Not exactly an haute couture comedy, but it’s wearable enough

Fanny Ardant ("8 Women") plays a famous fashion designer in this new French rom-com.

Fashion and funny are stitched together to yield less-than-fabulous results in Chic!, a romantic comedy set in the high-stakes, low-ethics world of Parisian haute couture. Starring the great Fanny Ardant (8 Women) as a preposterously self-indulgent designer experiencing a major creative crisis, and Marina Hands (Lady Chatterley) and Eric Elmosnino (Gainsbourg) as the would-be couple who could save the day, the film features a few good moments of over-the-top parody but otherwise languishes in cliches while heading in mostly expected directions. Local numbers were decent for opening weekend, though this garment is too mainstream to be worn outside the usual Francophone catwalks.

Alicia Ricosi (Ardant) is the 60-something artistic director of a prestigious French fashion house in her name. Recently separated from her latest beau and suffering a serious lack of inspiration, she’s about to sabotage her company’s upcoming runaway show unless somebody swoops in to save the day.

That person is none other than trusty commercial director Helene (Hands), a corporate ice queen willing to do anything for the bottom line, especially when pressured by her fanatical CEO (Laurent Stocker). With only three days to get Alicia back in her groove, Helene winds up resorting to desperate measures when the designer falls for working-class gardener Julien (Elmosnino), claiming that he’s the very muse she needs to create her latest Spring-Summer collection.

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Written by Gallic comedy stalwart Jean-Paul Bathany (Safari) and directed by TV veteran Jerome Cornuau (The Tiger Brigades), the film moves swiftly and humorously through its setup stage, giving Ardant free rein to play a cross between herself and a modern-day Coco Chanel, belting out lines like: “Clothes don’t make the man, they create him,” in wispy, Italian-accented French. It’s an amusing and overcooked performance that dominates the first third of the movie, making one hope for the kind of industry sendup that the Paris fashion world could certainly use.

But soon enough, the romance between uppity-city-girl Helene and down-to-earth country bumpkin Julien takes over, heading in predictable directions and taking way too long to do so. From their very first meet-up, which of course goes disastrously wrong, it’s not hard to imagine that these two will eventually wind up together, with Helene learning to stop worrying and love discount flats, and Julien opening up to a woman whose values are the polar opposite of his own.

Despite the boilerplate scripting, Hands and Elmosnino are good enough actors to make the latter half of Chic! watchable, even as the jokes give way to easy sentiments and Ardant’s character unfortunately fades to the background. What’s left is a film that’s slickly shot (by Stephane Cami) and handsomely dressed (by Pierre-Jean Larroque), but one that falls short of the elegance and absurdity of fashion itself.

Production companies: Alter Films, StudioCanal, France 2 Cinema
Cast: Fanny Ardant, Marina Hands, Eric Elmosnino, Laurent Stocker
Director: Jerome Cornuau
Screenwriter: Jean-Paul Bathany
Producer: Alain Terzian
Executive producer: Michel Schmidt
Director of photography: Stephane Cami
Production designer: Denis Mercier
Costume designer: Pierre-Jean Larroque
Editor: Brian Schmitt
Composer: Rene Aubry
Sales: StudioCanal

No rating, 103 minutes