I Did It Again (Jamais le premier soir): Film Review

Romantic comedy with "Sex and the City" feel overcomes its flaws and wins over audiences.

The ditzy charm of French theater director Melissa Drigeard's film debut, which stars Alexandra Lamy, goes a long way in compensating for its "Sex and the City"-like formula.

Melissa Drigeard's debut feature I Did It Again (Jamais le premier soir) kicks off with the joyous trashing of a bachelor pad by three not-quite-so young women bent on revenge.

The reasons behind their act of vengeance are the subject matter of this romantic comedy that will remind viewers of HBO's hit series Sex and the City, with its story of three thirtysomethings who, each in their own way, are frustrated in their love lives and enjoy telling each other about their problems at length. Despite a sniffy reception from local critics, the movie had a decent run in France this January, where it's closing in on 700,000 admissions. If similarly marketed abroad, it could also become a decent-sized hit for female audiences elsewhere.

When she is dumped by her current beau via a letter delivered by courier to her workplace, it's the last straw for Julie (Alexandra Lamy). She decides that the best way to overcome her depression is to sign on for various personal growth programs, such as those offered by a guru, Viktor Bells (Michel Vuillermoz), and try and find solace in self-help books she purchases at her local bookshop, run by the moody, middle-aged Marc (Jean-Paul Rouve).

Meanwhile, Julie's best buddies aren't in much better shape, affection-wise. Her office colleague, Louise (Melanie Doutey), is involved in an affair with her manipulative boss, while Rose (Julie Ferrier), a tennis-coach, is obtaining zero satisfaction from her long-time partner and wants out.

Being lively, attractive and, despite some periods of gloom, generally upbeat in her approach to life, Julie has no lack of suitors. She is courted in turn by Charles (Julien Boisselier), a geeky orthopedist, Ange (Gregory Fitoussi), a lounge-lizard with matinee-idol looks, and bookseller Marc.

These potential matches provide plenty of comedic options and Drigeard works through a selection of them with gusto if no great originality. She pokes gentle fun -- too gentle to be called satire -- at the self-improvement industry, with Vuillermoz providing a memorable cameo as the charlatan Zen-master. The humor is mostly of the sitcom variety with some hit-and-miss slapstick and dialog that is functional rather than zinger-rich. There's also little to no sex, despite the penchant for lunchtime orgies of one of Julie's suitors.

But for all its obvious flaws, I Did It Again hangs together and finally works as straightforward feel-good entertainment. The director's background is in theater -- she is the author of three stage dramas, all co-written with fellow screenwriter Vincent Juillet -- and she gets the best out of her actors, in particular veterans Rouve and Vuillermoz and star Lamy (the wife of Oscar-nominee Jean Dujardin, though they've reportedly separated), who shines as the slightly ditzy but nonetheless endearing emotional wreck at the heart of the film.

The soft-rock score, written and performed by Dorion Fiszel and Brad Thomas Ackley, is an additional plus.

Production companies: Few, EuropaCorp, TF1 Films Production

Cast: Alexandra Lamy, Melanie Doutey, Julie Ferrier, Jean-Paul Rouve, Gregory Fitoussi, Julien Boisselier, Michel Vuillermoz
Director: Melissa Drigeard
Screenwriters: Melissa Drigeard, Vincent Juillet
Producers: Dominique Farrugia, Dominique Brunner
Director of photography: Laurent Dailland
Production designer: Stephane Taillasson
Music: Dorion Fiszel, Brad Thomas Ackley
Editor: Sylvie Gadmer
Sales: EuropaCorp
No rating, 90 minutes.