'The Other Woman' ('Amoureux de ma femme'): Film Review

Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing France
Mon dieu.

Actor-director Daniel Auteuil ('Cache') brings Florian Zeller’s play to the screen in a comedy that co-stars Gerard Depardieu, Sandrine Kiberlain and Adriana Ugarte.

So French and horny that it makes Pepe Le Pew seem as chaste as Bresson’s country priest, The Other Woman is an embarrassing and rather abject attempt by the otherwise talented Daniel Auteuil to direct a sexy rom-com for the 50-and-over set.

The actor, who plays the lead alongside Sandrine Kiberlain, Adriana Ugarte and, of course, Gerard Depardieu, has a hard time wringing a single laugh from this story of a married man lusting after his best buddy’s beautiful and significantly younger girlfriend during an extended dinner party. Mixing dreams, reality and lecherous fantasies, it’s as if Walter Mitty popped too many Viagras and forced us to watch him walk around with a perpetual boner. Woe to anyone who goes into this hoping for the kind of smart, sophisticated comedy that the French occasionally churn out.  

Auteuil (Cache, The Valet) is probably one of France’s best living performers, while behind the camera he’s helmed a trio of respectable Marcel Pagnol remakes (Marius, Fanny, The Well-Digger's Daughter). Why he decided to bring Florian Zeller’s theater piece Amoureux de ma femme (In Love With My Wife) to the screen is anyone’s guess. Perhaps he was hoping to make a crowd-pleasing comedie de boulevard like 2012’s What’s in a Name? or the late-90s classic Le Diner des cons — two films that use a similar setup of one location, one night.

The entirety of Woman hinges on the idea that Daniel (Auteuil), an aging Parisian book editor who seems to be happily married to the high school teacher Isabelle (Kiberlain), cannot handle the fact that his friend Patrick (Depardieu) left his wife for a young Spanish bombshell named Emma (Ugarte). When the new couple comes by for supper, Daniel is so smitten by the girl that he makes a fool of himself in every scene, or else imagines the erotic adventures that he and Emma could have together.

Are we supposed to chuckle when Daniel pictures Emma naked as soon as she steps through his door? Or how about when, as she opens her lips wide to taste his choux a la creme, he accidentally douses her face with chocolate sauce? None of these jokes are as funny as they are sort of disgusting — although perhaps nothing is as disgusting as the sight of Depardieu’s Patrick wrapping his oven mitt-sized hands around a girl half his age while proclaiming how happy she makes him.

If the #MeToo memo actually made it to France, it certainly didn’t reach Auteuil’s desk. Not that his movie necessarily champions sexual harassment, but the way it so easily assumes that old men will openly or privately drool over the youngest woman in the room seems like a big step backward. And even if Daniel will eventually come to his senses and realize, in the immortal words of Billy Joel, that “it’s just a fantasy, it’s not the real thing," this doesn’t erase the fact that we’ve spent the rest of the film watching him get off at Emma’s expense. 

Playing the fool for most of the running time, Auteuil subjects himself to a series of pitiful gags that are way below the level of someone who’s performed memorably for auteurs like Claude Sautet, Andre Techine and Michael Haneke. Kiberlain (9 Month Stretch) has done a string of decent comedies over the past few years and should have turned this down, while Ugarte (Almodovar’s Julieta) deserves much better. Depardieu can be seen either shoving food into his mouth or salivating over his co-star.

Tech credits are what you would expect, with most of the action set in a massive Paris apartment that hardly anyone in the audience can afford. A late excursion to sun-drenched Venice — where, in one scene, Emma lies fully nude on the bed in post-coital ecstasy — helps make Daniel’s big wet dream look like it’s finally come true.

Production companies: Curiosa Films, France 3 Cinema, Zack Films, Versus Production
Cast: Daniel Auteuil, Sandrine Kiberlain, Gerard Depardieu, Adriana Ugarte
Director: Daniel Auteuil
Screenwriter: Florian Zeller, based on his play
Amoureux de ma femme
Producer: Olivier Delbosc
Director of photography: Jean-Francois Robin
Production designer: Herald Najar
Costumer designer: Charlotte Betaillole
Editor: Joelle Hache
Composer: Thomas Dutronc
Sales: Other Angle Pictures

In French
84 minutes