20 June 2010

A Little Light Relief

It may be obvious from my previous movie-related posts that the majority of films I watch are angsty dramas or thrillers. Life, after all, is light-hearted enough... This weekend, however, I saw two (count 'em) comedies and I found myself enjoying them both.

I'll start with L'arnacoeur (Heartbreaker) because I saw it this morning and it was so charmingly ludicrous (or is that ludicrously charming?) that it seems to have numbed my brain somewhat. The plot summary on IMDb reads as follows:

Alex and his sister run a business designed to break up relationships. They are hired by a rich man to break up the wedding of his daughter. The only problem is that they only have one week to do so.

Now, had this been a US film with, say, Ashton Kutcher playing Alex and Kate Hudson playing the daughter, I probably wouldn't have given it a second glance but it's actually a French film and so I thought pourquoi 
pas -- at the very least, it would be good linguistic practice. I got a free ticket courtesy of SeeFilmFirst, from which I had been planning to unsubscribe because after six months, they hadn't managed to offer me a ticket to a single film I would want to see (apart from when the screenings were during office hours).

French or not, L'arnacoeur really is quite ludicrous. As the film opens, we meet Florence, on holiday in Morocco with her bozo boyfriend (BB) who only wants to hang out by the pool and attend wet t-shirt contests. Florence hitches a lift to visit "the dunes" with a hot doctor--"Pierre"--who is also very charming, quotes Brazilian poetry and saves poor African children. Sure enough, they kiss but then he tells her that he was too devastated by his last relationship to get involved in another one. He even cries. So Florence realises that BB has to go and can get on with her life.

Alex and his intel experts (his sister and her husband) are hired by the family or friends of women in relationship with BBs to break up the relationship. Their MO is to do tons of research of the woman to find out how Alex can make himself into the exact guy the woman needs to realise she is in the wrong relationship, whether that be the caring doctor or the hunky window cleaner. He also owes some scary mafioso type 20,000 euros, as he is often reminded by the scarier still henchman, so when he gets a call from another mafioso type asking him to stop his daughter from getting married in ten days' time, of course he says yes.

Trouble is, the daughter is the lovely Vanessa Paradis (Juliette), a slightly cold but tough and intelligent wine expert and her fiancĂ© is the hot guy from Teachers, who has a degree from Oxford (I guess that sounds more impressive in French), a phat business of his own and humanitarian tendencies. He seems nice enough too and certainly seems to love Juliette so why exactly daddy dearest wants to break the couple up is somewhat unclear but as this is far from the most ridiculous thing about the film but never mind. The wedding is in Monaco so Alex and the team jet on down and Alex claims to be a bodyguard hired for Juliette by her father--we spend a few minutes with her trying to escape from him but after he "saves" her from being mugged (a plot engineered by Alex's crew in disguise), she gives in and lets him be her bodyguard. And isn't it a coincidence that he also loves George Michael and Dirty Dancing is his favourite film too? (I think if I were Juliette, I would be slightly dubious of the sexuality of such a man but she is too secretly pleased at the "coincidences" to mind.)

And so it goes on with Alex slowly winning Juliette's friendship and maybe more thanks in part to his sister and her husband and their seemingly endless wardrobe of disguises (air con maintenance man, Italian racing driver, bar maid, hotel manager, etc.), who have managed to hack every CCTV camera in Monaco and pull off a range of ridiculous feats in the name of seducing Juliette into ditching her would-be husband.

I haven't seen Hitch but this film is, I imagine, the opposite -- a man who tries to break couples up rather than hook them up, although on the other hand, perhaps both Hitch and Alex are working to make sure women end up with their Mr Right. As I'm sure happens in Hitch too, things here go somewhat awry when the heartbreaker discovers he has a heart. I don't think this is much of a spoiler given that I worked out exactly what would happen before the opening credits had even rolled. Regardless, despite its silliness and its crazy plot, L'arnacoeur was funny and delightful enough to make it a perfect film for a lazy, laid-back Sunday.  Paradis and Romain Duris, who played Alex, were perfectly charming--and it definitely helped that the latter was so easy on the eye.

Yesterday, I saw Please Give, which was more sublime than ridiculous but just as funny, although more in the aren't-people-weird sense than the ha-ha-look-at-that-guy-trying-to-be-Patrick-Swayze sense. Please Give is one of those only-in-New-York films, not least because the main concern most people have is how they can get more living space (by buying the neighbours' apartment and knocking through into it when the neighbours die, in this film).

There's a well-off couple (Kate and Alex) with a teenage daughter in one apartment who are waiting for the elderly woman next door to pop her clogs so they can get a new master bedroom. The elderly woman's grandchildren are caring, introverted Rebecca, a radiology technician, and Mary, a tarty, blunt, vapid beauty technician. Mary isn't the only one in the film who speaks her mind -- so too does the old lady and the teenage daughter. Meanwhile, Kate feels guilty about all her money and the fact that her swanky designer antiques store is filled with stuff she gets from "the children of dead people" (usually for a pittance because they have no idea of the value of the stuff and just want to be done with it) and so liberally scatters $20 across the homeless people who live on her block (and also, sometimes, to people who are actually not homeless at all but queuing up outside a restaurant) and wants to do more to help ease the guilt.

No one is happy, really, although they are all unhappy in different ways and to be honest, none of them really need to be unhappy. The teenage daughter wants some $200 jeans, which her mother won't buy for her; Alex idly starts shagging Mary; Kate turns out to be no good as a volunteer because she, like the old lady, focuses only on the negatives and just ends up depressing everyone; Mary stalks the current girlfriend of her ex "who has a really big back"; and Rebecca tentatively starts dating the grandson of one of her patients ("but he's very short"). Apart from this, not a lot happens and they all go about their lives, trying to be happier, over-analysing everything and being, by turns, selfish and kind. It really is a talkie--the film is seriously dialogue-heavy--but the characters are amusing and peculiar even if they aren't always very likable.

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