France, 2010, 105 minutes, Colour.
Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, Francois Damiens, Helena Noguerra, Andrew Lincoln.
Directed by Pascal Chaumeil.
Romain Duris (of the extraordinary strong jutting chin) usually appears in very French dramas, often as a pensive, even melancholic, type. Here he has the opportunity to be a charmer, a comedian, do some Dirty Dancing and be a heartbreaker.
We wonder what is happening as the film opens and a young woman on holidays in Morocco leaves her worthless fiancé at a swimming pool while she goes on an expedition with a doctor to see the dunes and to visit his patients, including some Siamese twins divided at the head. Too good to be true. Yes. It is all an entertaining set-up because Alex, along with his sister and her husband, specialise in breaking up engagements considered unsuitable by families and friends. Alex makes the women fall in love with them and backs off as he tells them (with crocodile tears which he produces often during the film) that he is in a place of grief. We see the routine speeded up in a collage with several more unwitting fiancées.
Then, Alex gets the chance at the big money (which he needs because he is in debt to gangsters, with huge, very huge, Serb bodyguards) to sustain his sense of himself and fashion. He has ten days to break up the engagement of a wealthy girl, Juliette (singer-actress Vanessa Paradis) and her British fiancé, also wealthy (Andrew Lincoln).
Of course, the audience finds Alex seductive as well and we become complicit in all his plots and plans and devices to make Juliette fall in love with him and call the whole engagement off. He outwits her but she can also outwit him. But, with extraordinary technological resources plus the fact that his sister can be seen doing umpteen jobs around the hotel, he keeps his plan more or less on track. His brother-in-law fancies himself as an actor wanting to live some of his fantasies and steps in, sometimes quite hilariously.
In real life Alex would be a cross between an unwelcome stalker and technological Peeping Tom but this is going to turn out like a fairy tale, the princess and the commoner Prince Charming. Or is it?
The screenplay is often witty, sometimes quite funny – and there is a knocking out of a character that brings on a laugh more than it should. George Michael and Wham’s songs get something of a wham, but the distributors of Dirty Dancing could not have asked for more promotion.
Light-headed, perhaps, light-hearted certainly, and quite amusing as we watch it.
1. Romance? Comedy? Ironies? Sentiment? The blend of all?
2. The title, the focus on Alex, on the women, his business, seduction, susceptibilities?
3. The opening and the pre-credits sequence, Morocco, the swimming pool, the motel? The girl and her boyfriend, his staying for the wet shirt contest and being rebuked by the Muslim woman? Going to the dunes, the bus leaving late, the guide, going with the doctor, the village, the Siamese twins, the jabs, the nurse, the story? The woman and her succumbing to Alex? The kiss? His plot, the payments? Setting the birds off in the dunes?
4. The Moroccan locations, the contrast with France, the collage of women whose engagements he broke off? The film in Monaco, the beauty of the city, the buildings, the sights, mountains and the sea? The postcard look of Monaco? The musical score?
5. The songs, the Chopin, the Wham songs, Dirty Dancing? Praise, critique, spoof?
6. Alex and the explanation of his work? Melanie and Marc? The collaboration, the business, the Asian woman, the negro spiritual woman, the window-cleaning and the woman in the office, his spiels, his tears, his explanation that he could not commit? Breaking off the engagements?
7. The group as a company, at home, Marc and Melanie and their marriage, Alex and his style, spending money, their being professionals?
8. Alex and his debts, the threat from the gangster, the big Serb bodyguard, chewing the nuts and spitting, the situation for Alex? The hovering presence of the Serb? The background of Alex’s boxing career, opting out, his father – and the final confrontation with the Serb, the fight, the boxing technique and winning?
9. The approach to Alex, the businessman and his assistant, the plan, the memories of Alex’s father, the payment? Alex’s need for money for the gangsters?
10. Juliette, the clash of relationship with her father, the planning of the wedding, the ten years of hostility, her mother’s death? Her later explaining that she was a groupie, went on the road for a year? Her relationship with Jonathan, Jonathan as a pleasant man?
11. The investigation of Jonathan, his charitable work, disguised as beggars and his getting the doggie bag and the irony of his giving it to them? His jet? Juliette, her wealth, the company keeping surveillance watch on her?
12. The group and their stalking, with their technology and being peeping toms? Marc and his prurient looks? But tongue-in-cheek, the information gained by technology?
13. Alex with Juliette, her tricking him, his running, the boat and his leap? The water in the room, Marc as the engineer? His becoming her bodyguard, the phone call to her father? The attack, Melanie in the car, Alex rescuing her, her purse? Her relying on him?
14. Their outings together, society, meals, clashes, the arrival of Florence? Florence and her background, friendship, sexual appetite? Her eyeing Alex? Jonathan’s absence, the five days with Alex? Their outings, the crises, the flood, staying the night?
15. Jonathan’s return, his politeness, the preparation for the wedding? His parents, their snobbery?
16. Juliette, with Jonathan, unable to sleep, going out, Alex in the car, the restaurant and the meal, the dancing, his rehearsing Dirty Dancing moves, watching the DVD, his dancing with Juliette? Listening to the Wham record in the car? Going to the opera, his pretending to play the piano and conduct as he watched? His hooking Juliette? Her return to Jonathan?
17. Juliette, the wedding, her father, his agreeing to let her go?
18. The thugs, the fight with Alex, his winning? The threat to Melanie and Marc?
19. Melanie and Marc, the threats to the marriage, Marc’s roving eye, yet their love for each other?
20. The wedding, Juliette’s decision, running away, Alex and his realisation that he loved Juliette, running up the hill, their meeting?
21. The group packing, leaving – and continuing or not? The happy ending – for a light romantic comedy with touches of irony?