' ' Cinema Romantico: Un Plan Parfait

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Un Plan Parfait

Few things at the cinema get my goat like a film that fails to heed its own mantra and that, I'm afraid to report, is "Un Plain Parfait", the 2012 comedy from director Pascal Chaumeil (screenplay by Laurent Zeitoun and Yoann Gromb). It is a film asserting its faith in lives of surprise and yet the film itself is noticeably devoid of surprise.

That can be a dangerous complaint in the world of the rom com, which is what "Un Plan Parfait" is, specifically because rom com blueprints are often required to be so rigid. We know a certain Girl has to end up with a certain Guy, or vice-versa, and that manufactured roadblocks must act as impediments to this inevitable union. It's the not the destination, speaking of a phrase entirely devoid of surprise, it's the journey. Okay. Fine. No argument. But what if even the journey is surprisingly short on surprise? Is it possible to have a sequence set in zero gravity without projectile vomit? Is it?!

It isn't. English, French, whichever, whatever, projectile vomit comes in any language.

Told in flashback around the family dinner table at Christmas, a curious device which sort of works to at least initially distance us from our true protagonist, "Un Plan Parfait" is centered around the comedic trials of Isabelle (Diane Kruger). She loves Pierre (Robert Plagnol), her handsome co-worker, seemingly not in spite of but because of their delightfully predictable routine. They have been together for a decade but have yet to marry. This is because of an old family legend stipulating that the first marriage is a failure, the second marriage is a success. To make this man she loves so truly her first husband is to tempt the fates. Alas, her biological clock has initiated countdown and Pierre is set on wedding bands pre-child rearing.

Thus, Isabelle and her sister Corinne (Alice Pol), whose second marriage to Patrick (Jonathan Cohen), whose quest to dee jay Isabelle's wedding gets shuttered too soon, is going swimmingly, concoct a scheme. Denmark allows a marriage to be annulled the same day. So she will fly to Denmark, marry an agreed-upon patsy and get a divorce. First Marriage problem solved.

The patsy doesn't show. She turns to her airplane seat mate, Jean Yves (Dany Boon), a schlumpy if good-hearted guidebook editor on his way to Nairobi. She books a ticket to Nairobi, determined to marry Jean Yves and get a divorce so she can get re-married to Pierre. Hijinks ensue.

Forthcoming complaints aside, credit is due to Chaumeil for maintaing a solid pace that never gets bogged down in the whole "this-is-the-serious-portion-now" typical of American rom coms. Kruger also gives a suitably lively performance. Aside from Tarantino, America still has not figured out how to deploy her talent at the movies, but her timing is spot-on (spruced up by the editing) and her energy causes her to rise above simple comedic cipher.

The character, as written, is potentially more interesting than per usual because, frankly, she is as conniving as convivial, using and abusing (pretty seriously) her first spouse. She's even portrayed, to some degree, as a xenophobe, dismissive of the various unfamiliar customs she encounters as the story trots from Africa to Russia. But rather than make her change from glamorous stick-in-the-mud to aspiring-adventurer-on-the-prowl-for-surprise gradual, it reduces it to ("surprise") a montage. She essentially thinks Jean Yves is a lout, because that is how he is essentially portrayed, until the plot suddenly decides she doesn't think that way anymore.

Which brings us to Boon in a more broad portrayal whose character is by necessity forced to be so clueless to keep things going that our empathy for his never-gets-the-girl guy begins to wane. I'm all for suspending disbelief at the movies - and actively encourage it - but there is a fine line between an audience suspending its disbelief and a screenplay sprinkling the majority of its characters with magical dimwit dust to advance its story. "It's a movie" is only an acceptable argument up to a point, and it exhausts its ammunition in "Un Plan Parfait" long before the end.

There are dollops of amusement throughout, sure, but not enough inspiring bits or fanciful dialogue to leave any real impact and the idea that in this day and age second marriages really can be more rewarding than first marriages is left unexplored. It's fashionable to see French comedies and lament "If only America could do it like this", and (full confession) I've made that lament myself, but take "Un Plan Parfait" and plug in Sandra Bullock and whoever the dude is at the moment over here and you'd have the same damn thing.

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