Director: Sophie Lellouche
Cast: Alice Taglioni, Patrick Bruel, Marine Delterme, Yannick Soullier
Running time: 80 minutes
Release Date: July 5
Director Sophie Lellouche admits that it took her a while to like this debut feature film of hers, and it’s difficult not to be alarmed in the face of such ambivalence. Her feelings are explained by the autobiographical element to Paris-Manhattan—the romantic comedy/family drama tells the story of a child who has difficulties in becoming an adult, and Lellouche has said that the central character’s internal experiences mirror her own. These growing pains are evident in the finished product, which is as awkward and messy as the trials of its heroine.
Alice (Taglioni) is a young woman who doesn’t fit in. Unlucky in love, the Woody Allen obsessive enjoys imaginary conversations with her idol on the many aspects of life that befuddle her as she clambers her way towards the next phase of her personal development. As the years go by pharmacist Alice drifts into her thirties and is still without a mate. Her family do their best to hook her up with various suitors—pops is especially proactive in this regard—but little comes of their efforts. When security expert Victor (Bruel) comes into Alice’s orbit, hope is reborn for the wayward singleton. Yet both of them are stubborn and the pair frequently rub each other up the wrong way. When Alice instead begins dating the well-to-do Vincent (Soullier), it seems she might finally be on course for attaining happiness.
There’s a lot about Paris-Manhattan that is badly-handled, not least the various relationships it portrays. Alice is flaky, obstinate and idealistic, so much so that it is impossible to decipher what her true intentions really are. The same is true of Victor—there’s a mysterious aspect to his character that acts as a barrier to understanding. His designs are also unclear, and the only real indication that he is at least some way taken with Alice comes when he makes a remark to a colleague about how hard it is to figure her out. Then Alice begins seeing Vincent, and although everything goes swimmingly he is kept at the periphery of things. It may all be supposed to be part of the movie’s quirky charm—but ultimately it’s more unsatisfactory than kooky.
The Woody Allen aspect is completely unnecessary and could conceivably have been left out altogether. It is something for the film to hang itself on, but that’s about it. There are plenty of other issues that are touched upon which could have been explored in more detail but sadly are not—her sister wonders if her career has impacted on her ability to rear her teenage daughter effectively, while her mother turns to alcohol and wallows in regret over a career that she once sacrificed in order to raise her own family. There’s also her brother-in-law’s unorthodox sex life and her niece’s boyfriend, who has the family on edge because they have been told nothing about him.
Paris-Manhattan isn’t quite a disaster. It’s a gentle movie and a pleasant watch that never becomes too heavy. But there are too many random sub-plots that are never fully teased out, and the Woody Allen dimension is just a noose around its neck because in terms of quality it doesn’t come close to anything the New Yorker has produced. Lellouche’s debut feature is unintentionally confounding—and how such a pedestrian example of France’s cultural output ever made it to Irish shores is more perplexing still.