Agnès Jaoui is a French actress who occasionally directs, to scripts from hubby Jean-Pierre Bacri. This one got a Cannes writing award and, ergo, the most Stateside attention. It’s another French Comedy of (Bad) Manners amongst the sort of low-level intellectual types you might click past on some book/chat show. Specifically, a damp, middle-age novelist and the unhappy/unwieldy daughter who’s so resigned to acting out toward the self-centered, narcissistic clan she lives with that she drives away a decent guy who’s trying to break thru her defense mechanisms. Nothing wrong with that set-up. And the milieu of writers at various stages of their careers, hangers-on, and (here’s something new) a voice teacher and some of her singing students, make you bend over backwards to give the film a chance. But after a while, you realize that everyone in the film is like that guy (or gal) at a party who's looking over your shoulder while talking to you, hoping to spot someone more interesting/more important/better connected to chat up. These opportunistic party-goers come in three varieties: Those who do it but feel bad about doing it; Those who do it without feeling bad about doing it; And those who do it without even realizing that they are doing it. If only Jaoui & Bacri knew that the real shits come out of the first category, the ones who ought to know better. And in a film entirely dependent upon wise & witty observation, this is a fatal blow to our involvement. Especially since Jaoui's lack of visual aptitude leaves the interiors dead on sight. Too bad, a lot of clever perfs go to waste.
WATCH THIS, NOT THAT: There are too many fine, contemporary French family dramedies going unseen. Olivier Assayas SUMMER HOURS/’08 is a good one to try.