Published Apr 11, 2013Though set in the titular Paris, the Manhattan portion of Sophie Lellouche's debut feature, Paris-Manhattan, refers to the obsession that young pharmacist Alice (Alice Taglioni) has with American filmmaker Woody Allen. Similarly of a neurotic disposition, she fancies his philosophies and minor existential woes a guiding force in her life, having full conversations with the black and white poster of him that hangs in her bedroom.
Initially, this format, wherein an affluent, lovelorn girl complains about life, pushing men to the side for minor imperfections while holding a quiet grudge against her sister, Hélène (Marine Delterme), for stealing her high school crush, does little to hold interest. Taglioni is charming enough, having a natural on-screen presence and charisma, but the gimmick of injecting glib quotes about suicide and relationships from Allen into a humdrum narrative about an ostensibly boring Parisian family is milquetoast at best.
Fortunately, while Lellouche borrows assertions from the lexicon of Allen—most gratingly during early moments of the film—she doesn't exactly try to recreate his works, instead focusing on the idiosyncratic relationship between Alice and her unconventional love interest—an alarm specialist— Victor (Patrick Bruel). Once he enters the picture, annoying our goofy protagonist with contrary worldviews, their playful chemistry takes over and even makes their broad comedy, such as Alice's tendency to lend Woody Allen DVDs to customers to treat their ailments, somewhat more palatable.
Somewhere in the midst of botched pharmacy robberies and stakeouts intended to reveal familial infidelities an observation is made about the less than cinematic reality of long-term relationships. Hélène's marriage, while good, has its flaws, just as her parents (Michel Aumont and Marie-Christine Adam) have their secrets and inconsistencies.
This lesson of settling for less or embracing the imperfections of other human beings is ultimately the mode to resolution and contentment. It's just unfortunate that even by the end of the movie, Alice's motivations are still superficial, hinting at depth without demonstrating any capacity for it.
Still, Paris-Manhattan is an easy watch, having the occasional funny moment and little complex darkness to sully its many feel good components. (A-Z Films)