Published Sep 04, 2008In one of his Life in Hell comic strips, Matt Groening described "cinema's greatest paradox": "the French are funny, sex is funny, and comedies are funny, yet no French sex comedies are funny." Anne Fontaine's La Fille de Monaco does little to dispel this notion. It's the kind of movie that evaporates from memory the minute it ends.
Bertrand (Fabrice Luchini, from Moliere) is a first-rate attorney whose current trial is high profile enough that he needs 24-hour protection, which is provided by Christophe (Roschdy Zem), a no-nonsense bodyguard. Almost by accident, he strikes up a relationship with Audrey (Louise Bourgouin), a sexually adventurous femme fatale who provides his life with certain fringe benefits but seems to add to his neurosis. The fact that she once had a fling with Christophe adds extra tension.
The first half of La Fille de Monaco is a light and fizzy screwball comedy with rat-a-tat dialogue and deadpan performances. The characterizations are shallow all around: Bertrand is uptight and bumbling; Christophe is scowling and imposing; and Audrey is a two-dimensional vixen. There aren't many laughs in these scenes but they aren't unpleasant.
In the second half, Fontaine veers to more dramatic territory, as Christophe's conflicted feelings about Audrey become increasingly intense and Bertrand makes a crucial sacrifice for his bodyguard.
The concluding scenes are meant to carry emotional weight but by establishing the characters as paper-thin in the first half, Fontaine hasn't given us any reason to care about them in the second. The result is conflicted, forgettable and, alas, not very funny. (Seville)