Monday, February 09, 2004

An Amazing Couple (Un couple épatant)

* * ¼ (out of four)

Seen 8 February 2004 at the Brattle Theater (Sunday Eye-Opener)

Though was is the first part of Lucas Belvaux's "Trilogy" to be released in France, it is being released second in the US. Not that that matters much; apparently all three take place (and were filmed) simultaneously, with the lead characters in one being supporting characters in the other two (On The Run and After The Life), and all three belonging to different genres. It's an interesting experiment, though if An Amazing Couple is representative, not necessarily a successful one.

An Amazing Couple is meant to be a romantic comedy, but it is seldom romantic and only fitfully funny. Much of that comedy is very French, as likely to make American's scratch their heads as laugh ("okay, there'd normally be a joke there, and that guy was doing something odd, but I just don't get it"). The more serious subplots from the other movies pop up unresolved here, making the movie feel both incomplete and overstuffed without the rest of the context. And then there are other subplots which are likely unique to this movie, like the main characters' daughter breaking up with her boyfriend, that don't seem to go anywhere.

The big problem, though, is the pacing. A good screwball comedy often starts out with a simple misunderstanding that gets compounded, escalating to things getting thoroughly out of hand. Here, though, things seem to get thoroughly out of hand in the first half hour, but keep escalating, which means that by the time the movie reaches its third act, everything is so outlandish that the main characters come off as stupid (the husband) and shrill/bitchy (the wife), and I just didn't care any more. Also, the character used to push things forward (a police detective played by Gilbert Melki who seems to be the closest thing the Trilogy has to a central character) is practically malevolent, adding a little too much darkness to the proceedings.

Which is too bad, because the title couple, though not actually amazing, has potential. It's nice and a little unconventional to see a romantic comedy about a married couple in middle age. François Morel and Ornella Muti are a likeable scruffy guy/glamorous woman pair, and the scene after they finally tell each other what is going on felt good, like they're a pair that's worth keeping together. There is some good comedy to be found, and maybe this movie could have been made to work better if it were on its own, just a romantic comedy and not part of some grand experiment.

No comments: