Girl on a Bicycle: Film Review

Scraps of charm are weighed down by rom-com contrivance.

Jeremy Leven, screenwriter of "The Legend of Bagger Vance," makes his first directorial outing since 1994's "Don Juan DeMarco."

A monogamy-minded bus driver faces an unlikely test of his faithfulness in Jeremy Leven's Girl on a Bicycle, a rom-com whose agreeable individual elements aren't enough to sell the witless contrivance around which they revolve. Leven has penned screenplays for novel-derived hits including The Notebook and The Legend of Bagger Vance, but this rare directorial effort will have a modest arthouse showing at best, targeting American auds for whom its Paris setting is catnip.

Girl exploits more than just Paris, actually, squeezing in an assortment of nationalities for viewers whose Europhilia isn't limited to France, and offering most of the dialogue in English for those who hate subtitles. Vincenzo Amato's Paolo, the Italian, drives busloads of tourists past Parisian landmarks while explaining that they're all copies of Roman masterworks; his coworker Derek (Paddy Considine, slumming in the dissolute-sidekick role) tosses in the occasional bit of praise for his native U.K. Paolo's live-in girlfriend Greta is a Teutonic flight attendant who has calmly counted the days from their meeting to his inevitable proposal in a fancy restaurant. (The absurdly elaborate box in which he presents the ring represents a hitherto unexploited way for the wedding industry to wring money out of loving couples.)

But no sooner has Paolo proposed than an actual French woman catches his eye. Beautiful Cecile (Louise Monot) passes his bus on her bike, and we're meant to believe that this charmingly loyal man is suddenly questioning his choices. After some clumsy script convolutions relying on further chance encounters, Paolo winds up hitting Cecile with his bus. Visiting her in the hospital, he is mistaken for her (long estranged) husband; as she is inexplicably friendless and immobilized by casts on her arm and leg, he's forced to help her get back home.

Somehow, this leads to a routine in which Paolo (fired from his job after the accident) leaves home in the morning to go care for Cecile and her two kids, then picks the tots up from school and stays until bedtime. His furtiveness eventually leads Greta to suspect he's having an affair, even as familiarity gradually cures Paolo of any romantic interest in his patient.

All this cutesy business might go over better without the cloying whimsy of Craig Richey's score and the coffeehouse-lite pop tunes sprinkled around it. Only the polish of Leven's cast, soldiering on happily in their variously-accented English, keeps the film from being a chore.

Production Company: Wiedemann & Berg

Cast: Vincenzo Amato, Nora Tschirner, Louise Monot, Paddy Considine, Stephane Debac

Director-Screenwriter: Jeremy Leven

Producers: Quirin Berg, Max Wiedemann

Executive producers: Michael Scheel

Director of photography: Robert Fraisse

Production designer: Jean-Michel Hugon

Music: Craig Richey

Costume designer: Catherine Leterrier

Editor: Michael Trent

R, 101 minutes