La Vie au Ranch: Film Review

La Vie Au Ranch Still - H 2012

La Vie Au Ranch Still - H 2012

This rambling portrait of a group of French twentysomething female friends is as aimless as its characters.

The French import centers on a group of twentysomething female friends.

Playing like an extended episode of Lena Dunham’s HBO series Girls minus the narrative drive, Sophie Letourneur’s film follows a group of twentysomething female Parisians as they banter, text, flirt, hang out and do whatever else it is young French women do these days. Filmed in a semi-improvisatory, fly-on-the-wall style, La Vie au Ranch boasts an undeniable authenticity. But how much you enjoy it will depend on your affection for its aimless if attractive characters. The film is playing a weeklong theatrical engagement as part of the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Young French Cinema series.

The title refers to “le Ranch,” the ramshackle Left Bank apartment where the women hang out — fortunately, male for male viewers, often in various states of undress. Very little happens in the course of the film, with the friends occasionally venturing to noisy nightclubs, charming outdoor cafes, and, in the biggest scenic departure, the bucolic French countryside that is clearly not their natural environment.

The dialogue flows so fast and freely that non-French speaking viewers may find themselves hard-pressed to keep up with the endlessly rapid subtitles. But it does feature frequent flashes of wit, especially when the clueless, pompous males on display attempt to impress the women by extolling the virtues of Korean director Hong Sang-soo, Chinese actress Maggie Cheung and William Faulkner.

Sarah-Jane Sauvegrain, Eulalie Juster and Mahault Mollaret play the main trio in appealingly loose, naturalistic fashion and more than convincing as their characters chain-smoke, drink copious amounts of booze and gorge on ice cream in their underwear. Eventually a theme of sort develops, that these women are gradually coming to the realization that eventually they’ll have to grow up and, you know, do something, but it seems to come as an afterthought.

The co-writer/director clearly has a firm grasp of both her characters and their milieu. But eventually the tedium of the shapeless proceedings overcomes the verisimilitude.

Opens: Friday, Oct. 19 (Umedia)
Production: Ecce Films
Cast: Sarah-Jane Sauvegrain, Eulatie Juster, Mahault Mollaret
Director: Sophie Letourneur
Screenwriters: Sophie Letourneur, Delphine Agut
Producer: Emmanuel Chaumet
Director of photography: Clare Mathon
Editor: Michel Klochendler
Not rated, 92 min.