Love Lasts Three Years: Film Review

French rom-com is both vibrant and smart, clichéd and sexist.

Frederic Beigbeder's film follows the hijinks of a young literary critic who meets his cheeky match at his grandmother’s funeral.

Writer-turned-filmmaker Frederic Beigbeder offers up a lively, occasionally hilarious, but ultimately forgettable French rom-com with his aphoristically titled debut, Love Lasts Three Years (L’Amour dure trois ans). Adapted from his own 1997 novel, this tongue-in-cheek tale of amour fou (or amour faux) features flashy direction and a spirited turn by It Girl Louise Bourgoin (A Happy Event), but is also a tad too generic, not to mention overtly misogynistic in ways that could only perhaps fly in Gaul. EuropaCorp release will definitely score points at home (it nearly tied Dragon Tattoo for opening day box office, despite having being released on half the prints), while overseas action for this well-tread genre should be predominantly Francophone.

Intellectual-cum-celebrity Beigbeder is widely known in France for his multiple radio and TV appearances (including a film criticism show he hosts on Canal Plus), as well as for his bestselling novels Windows on the World and 99 francs (which he adapted to the screen for director Jan Kounen). Witty, goofy and publicly irreverent, he’s managed to concoct a credible alter ego with his film’s would-be hero, Marc Maronnier (Gaspard Proust), a young literary critic whose marriage goes kaput in a rapid-fire and cleverly executed opening sequence.

But things somewhat look up for Marc when he meets his cheeky match, the gorgeous and vivacious Alice (Bourgoin), at his grandmother’s funeral. The fact that Alice is living with Marc’s cousin (Nicolas Bedos) doesn’t seem to pose a problem for either of them – the question is barely evoked – and they eventually begin an affair. The only real hitch is that Marc happens to be the author of an immensely popular book (also called Love Lasts Three Years) published under a pseudonym – a secret he tries to hide from his squeeze, who finds the text to be juvenile and lame.

In that sense she’s quite on the money, and the various aphorisms that graze the voiceover and dialogues, when they’re not CGI’d onto the screen, run the gamut from cute (“In the 21st century, love is an unanswered SMS”) to questionable (“Adultery makes one an adult”) to undeniably sexist: When Marc’s brutish buddy (Joey Starr) reveals, quite predictably, that he’s decided to turn gay, he says it’s because he’s “sick of being annoyed by bitches.” Another scene has the pals providing intellectual commentary on the pubic hair of female passersby, turning them into the snotty Parisian equivalents of construction workers on a lunch break.

Obviously, all the testosterone-fueled gags and chauvinist diatribes are meant to hide the fact that Marc is undeniably in love, and the narrative soon streamlines ahead to a conclusion rehashed from any number of romantic comedies. More intriguing, and definitely funnier, is the troubled relationship Marc has with his publisher (played by a straight-faced Valerie Lemericer), who seems to be the only character in the movie not to take him at his, um, word.

Stand-up comic Proust (who, like Marc, is no descendant of the great French writer) does a good job delivering Beigbeder’s snarky dialogues in deadpan fashion. Bourgoin offers up her usual mix of spice and sultriness, though Alice remains an altogether shallow character.

Slickly shot by Bruno Dumont’s regular director of photography, Yves Cape, and featuring music and a live performance by New Wave composer Michel Legrand, the production is well-stocked and energetic, if not exactly original. Sets include a number of swanky Paris apartments (including one with an indoor swimming pool), which may partially explain why all these wealthy intellos only have one thing to worry about.
Opens: In France (January 18)
Production companies: The Film, Akn Productions, EuropaCorp, France 2 Cinema, Scope Pictures
Cast: Louise Bourgoin, Gaspard Proust, JoeyStarr, Jonathan Lambert, Frederique Bel, Nicolas Bedos, Elisa Sednaoui
Director: Frederic Beigbeder
Screenwriters: Christophe Turpin, Gilles Verdiani, Frederic Beigbeder, based on his novel L’Amour dure trois ans
Producers: Michael Gentille, Alain Kruger
Director of photography: Yves Cape
Production designer: Christian Marti
Music: martin Rappeneau
Costume designer: Marie-Laure Lasson
Editor: Stan Collet
Sales Agent: EuropaCorp
No rating, 97 minutes