If you’re a Woody Allen fan, you’ll love “Paris-Manhattan,” the opening night movie for the 2013 JFilm Festival.
And even if you’re not (like me), you will at least appreciate it.
This light French comedy is the story of Alice (played by Alice Taglioni), a tall, attractive, but as yet unmarried woman, whose status is a source of concern for her parents, sister and brother-in-law.
She works all day in the pharmacy she inherited from her father, then goes out on a steady stream of dates her well-meaning relatives arrange for her. But she can’t seem to connect.
Maybe that’s because of her obsession — Woody Allen. Not only has Alice seen all his movies, she passes out his DVDs to her customers who come to her with prescriptions to fill; she clearly believes his movies are better medicine than any pills she can dispense.
But Alice’s obsession goes deeper. Not only does she watch Allen’s movies, she talks to a poster of him in her apartment late at night. And he answers. They discuss life, love and all the things the real Allen drones on about in his own films. He becomes Alice’s secret therapist as she winds her way through her own unsatisfying love life.
That is, until Victor comes along.
Played by another French actor, Patrick Bruel, Victor runs a home alarm business, with a twist (push the right button on one of his gadgets, and the alarm will emit chloroform, knocking out the perpetrator until the police arrive).
At first, Alice seems only interested in Victor, whom she meets at a party, as a friend. She’s far more attracted to Vincent (Yannick Soulier), the tall, wavy hair (and financially successful) friend of her brother-in-law, who knows how to sweep a girl off her feet — and he does.
But Victor doesn’t leave the stage; he stays engaged in Alice’s life, and even tries to thwart a holdup of her pharmacy, which Alice neutralizes herself by — you guessed it — giving the would-be robber a set of Allen’s movies (there may be a lesson here for criminologists).
So who will Alice end up with? The handsome, cosmopolitan Vincent or the lovable, good-natured Victor? Director Sophie Lellouche will keep us waiting, while entertaining us with side plots involving Alice’s equally dysfunctional family (a father who keeps stealing her business cards and handing them out to potential suitors, a mother with a slight drinking problem, a sister concerned about her daughter’s mysterious boyfriend, a brother-in-law who may or may not be stepping out). None of it is laugh-out-loud humor, but it will make you smile and nod at some of the characters’ quirks you recognize in yourself, or someone close to you.
To be honest, I found “Paris-Manhattan” a little formulaic, but hang in there. Some interesting twists await the moviegoer who doesn’t tune out.
One hates to use the term “date movie” to describe this picture. On second thought, what’s so bad about that? If you like the movie, JFilm is screening it twice during the festival; see it again with someone you care to share your popcorn with — just a word of advice.
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)