The Art of Breaking Up Michel Deville

It’s the late 19th century and Lucette (Emmanuelle Beart) is a famous singer who’s been trysting with Edouard (Charles Berling). This will prove problematic; Edouard is about to be married off to dowry-rich Viviane (Sara Forestier), though her mother, Madame Duverger (Dominique Blanc), has designs on him as well. Did I mention that Lucette is to sing at their engagement? Without knowing who the groom is? This adaptation of a play by Georges Feydeau would seem to have the right farcical combination of sex, scandal and miscommunication but unfortunately, everybody involved seems to know it and thus play it up shamelessly to announce their wink-nudge complicity. The film opens loud and shrill, everybody grins like Jack Nicholson on nitrous oxide and it goes progressively downhill as the actors fall all over themselves to show they’re in on the joke. For a farce like this to work, it has to balance the vulgarity of the theme with the elegance of execution, and the movie is anything but elegant, with physical bits of business handled with unfunny clumsiness and the trace elements of wit trampled in a stampede of ham acting. One can praise the costumer and set decorator for having more sense of design than anyone else in the production but that won’t get you past the intense smugness of the whole enterprise or the thudding obviousness in which it’s been presented. Everybody’s attractive enough (especially Beart) to make it pass painlessly but you won’t get anything substantial out of it, not even a few cheap laughs, or the sense that people were trying to give pleasure above their own self-satisfaction. For middlebrow "quality” buffs only. (Seville)