It Boy (20 ans d’ecart): Film Review

It Boy 2013 H
Cherchez la cougar.

Virginie Efira and Pierre Niney star in "The Eye," co-director David Moreau's commercial cougar comedy.

PARIS -- French comedies have featured mistresses, lovers, sugar daddies and even sugar granddaddies in all ways imaginable, but are yet to deal with the cougar phenomenon that’s recently invaded American screens, both big and small. (The one exception being Anne Fontaine’s latest movie Two Mothers -- a dual-cougar drama that was reportedly mistaken for a comedy by many viewers who caught the Sundance premiere.)

For his first solo outing after co-helming the horror flicks Them and The Eye, writer-director David Moreau attempts to correct the situation with It Boy (20 ans d’ecart), a snappy, Hollywood-style rom-com where an under 40 fashionista falls for a bright-eyed student twenty years her junior. Backed by first-rate performances from Virginie Efira and Pierre Niney, this well-paced EuropaCorp effort is not without its snafus -- starting with the fact that the two actors look much closer in age than their characters -- but is still a breath of fresh air amid a typically morbid landscape of commercial Gallic laffers. Local numbers look promising, while steady overseas play could be followed by a studio remake -- if one already isn’t in the works.

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Written by Moreau, Efira and Amro Hamzawi, the script fits the mold of many a guy-meets-girl, guy-loses-girl, guy-gets-girl-back narrative, though it’s told primarily from a woman’s perspective – with said woman being nearly two decades older (the French title translates to “20-year difference”) than her object of affection.

We first meet 38-year-old working mom, Alice (Efira), as she attempts to launch the latest edition of fashion mag Rebelle (a trashy blend of Elle and Vogue) in Brazil. On the flight back to Paris, she meets 20-year-old urban planning major, Balthazar (Niney), when he’s bumped up to first class, and the two form a sort-of bond after the plane hits some turbulence, although it’s clear that Alice sees the youngin’ at best as a mere distraction, at worst as someone to use to her own ends.

Balthazar, however, is smitten, and when Alice leaves her flash drive on the plane, he sets out to find her, eventually setting a date at a local bar, where colleagues of hers catch the two of them in a faux-compromising position. Many tweets later, Alice is now the laughingstock of the office – that is to everyone but her boss (Gilles Cohen), who sees the alleged liaison as a sign of Alice’s brand new edge, hinting at her possible promotion from fashion editor to editor-in-chief.

Understanding how much MILF=moola in the backwards world of Paris mode, Alice decides to cultivate the fake relationship, using the unwitting Balthazar as her favorite boy toy for trendy art openings and other public appearances, all the while keeping him at bay in the bedroom. But eventually she falls for his innocent charms, and what seemed like a mere fling starts to grow serious, until Alice gets cold feet and Balthazar begins to realize he’s part of an intricate sugar mommy conspiracy.

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Filled with tons of quid pro quos, colorful side characters and rapid-fire gags -- the best one involving the couple’s first, rather awkward sexual encounter -- the film flies ahead at a brisk rhythm and rarely stops to contemplate the meaning of its exercise. Indeed, the age issue, as much as it draws a few laughs, is ultimately handled in mostly perfunctory ways, and seems to be less of a problem than Alice’s career conundrum, which comes to a head during a disastrous photo shoot in the final reel.

Yet despite the slick and superficial ways things manage to work themselves out, the chemistry between Belgian-born TV star Efira (My Worst Nightmare) and Comedie-Francaise company member Niney (LOL) is palpable from start to finish. Efira manages to combine a very Parisian brand of stiletto sultriness with her character’s deeper yearning for true love, while Niney perfectly encapsulates Balthazar’s bumbling earnestness and, later on, his broader emotional intelligence.

The performances are matched by a tight tech package that includes warm widescreen lensing from Laurent Tangy (Asylum Blackout) and a playful, somewhat busy score by Guillaume Roussel (The Dream Team). The soundtrack is filled with hip electro cuts from the likes of Jamaica and Tom Tom Club, offering further proof that, at least when it comes to France, cougar definitely means cool.


Production companies: Echo Films, EuropaCorp, TF1 Films Production

Cast: Virginie Efira, Pierre Niney, Gilles Cohen, Amelie Glenn, Charles Berling

Director: David Moreau

Screenwriters: David Moreau, Amro Hamzawi, Virginie Efira

Producer: Abel Nahmias

Director of photography: Laurent Tangy

Production designer: Jean Rabasse

Costume designer: Isabelle Pannetier

Music: Guillaume Roussel

Editor: Cyril Besnard

Sales: EuropaCorp

No rating, 91 minutes