Happiness Never Comes Alone: Film Review

Conventional and clichéd French romcom with a slick Hollywood veneer.

Writer-director James Huth's new romantic comedy explores the life of a talented pianist trying to make it big on Broadway.

PARIS - A Parisian romcom draped in Hollywood attire, writer-director James Huth’s Happiness Never Comes Alone (Un bonheur n’arrive jamais seul) offers up oodles of energy, gloss and some of Motown’s greatest hits within an otherwise conventional comedy about a romance surviving the test of angry husbands, jealous bros, bratty kids and the usual dose of Gallic sexism.

This Sophie Marceau summer vehicle should find lots of happy customers for Pathe’s wide-scale June 27 local release, with the actress’ star power pushing it abroad to Francophone territories and fests, though not quite across the Atlantic.

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Sacha (Gad Elmaleh) is a talented pianist who has never taken life too seriously, but things are about to change when 40-something career woman Charlotte (Marceau) literally plops into his life one rainy afternoon. After a quick bout of lovemaking, and yet another scene in which Charlotte nearly breaks her neck—as if her appeal were meant to increase with respect to the number of times she gets clobbered on screen—things take a downward turn when Sacha discovers, oh la la, that his new squeeze has three kids, not to mention a jealous husband (Francois Berleand) who runs the multinational they both work for.

Even if Charlotte and her hubby are unofficially separated, she has a hard time untying the knot—not because she still loves her ex, but because he’s just too rich and powerful. Meanwhile, Sacha manages to warm up to Charlotte’s children, only to realize that the whole family thing is getting in the way of his dream of composing a (rather cheesy) Broadway-style musical, which he hopes to bring to the stage with his best buddy, Laurent (Maurice Barthelemy), a theatre director who prefers boozing and babes over serious relationships.

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Despite the extra-large serving of clichés, director Huth sugarcoats things enough so that the screenplay (co-written with regular collaborator Sonja Shillito) offers some pleasurable moments, many of them involving Elmaleh, a talented stand-up comic who can be a whole lot funnier than he is here. Still, he brings a certain burlesque charm to the proceedings, performing a few winning sight gags à la Chaplin—one of several nods to American movies on display here (the other ones being the movie posters for Casablanca and West Side Story that line the apartments of the two lovebirds, in a rather shallow form of homage).

Having showcased his stylistic chops in earlier, more intriguing genre works like Hell Phone and Brice de Nice, Huth adopts a rather conventional style here, with slick cinematography by Stephane Le Parc and a lushly generic score from Bruno Coulais (Coraline).

Marceau’s dialed-in performance yields few laughs and plenty of hysterics, with tunes by Etta James, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye providing the emotional highs that the film fails to offer.

Opens: In France (June 27)

Production companies: Eskwad, Pathe, TF1 Films Production, Captian Films

Cast: Sophie Marceau, Gad Elmaleh, Maurice Barthelemy, Francois Berleand

Director: James Huth

Screenwriters: James Huth, Sonja Shillito

Producer: Richard Grandpierre

Executive producers: Frederic Doniguian, Sonja Shillito

Director of photography: Stephane Le Parc

Production designer: Pierre Queffelean

Music: Bruno Coulais

Costume designer: Olivier Beriot

Editor: Joelle Hache

Sales Agent: Pathe International

No rating, 109 minutes