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Everyone knows that Eliane Weiss is dedicated in everything she does, from her husband, to her daughter and pupils. But not everyone knows that she longs for more - more time for herself, more fun, more thrills. So when she decides to start working on her passion, writing, and incidentally meets an attractive publisher, everyone is taken by surprise.Written by
The French actress Emmanuelle Devos, who has graced films by Jacques Audiard and Arnaud Desplechin, among others, is so soulful and cinematic it's fun just to watch her smoke a cigarette (which she does a lot); smile; roll her big almond eyes; or put her head back and shake her lovely mane. I confess I am her devotee and slave. This little film does not disappoint as an arena for her many charms. But otherwise I'm afraid it's very, very thin stuff. In this blunted feminist comedy Ms. Devos is Éliane Weiss, an elementary school teacher of Jewish ancestry who--desperately bored with her conventional life--buys a laptop, explores her options as a writer using an old journal, and finds a young publisher to whom her jottings appeal. This upsets her husband, the silver-haired Sylvain (Gérard Darmon), surprises their grown daughter, Bella (Maïa Rivière), turns her little life upside down, and eventually charms her extended family. But the whole thing seems a little ringard (old fashioned) in its plaintive approach to women's lib--as well as clichéd in its version of the Jewish family gemutlichkeit, with the invasive, demanding mom, the Yiddish phrases, the crowded dinners--the whole schmear.
Gerard Darmon may have the put-upon look appropriate for the stereotypical protective husband in this kind of story--the kind of guy who's lost the minute his wife develops the least independence. He may even look Jewish. Bu he has an edge about him that is wasted away from a gangster flick. He was one of the colorful nasties in Beinix's classic, Diva and even though that was 64 movies ago for the active Darmon, I still kept expecting him to pull out a long knife and look at it and somebody's neck with a lover's gaze. As the young publisher, Michel Joanez has a stammering eagerness that's just this side of grating. Devos is called upon to go overboard a few times too. When she learns for sure that her collage-book's to be published for sure, she falls on the floor, then rushes to the W.C. and throws up lengthily. To do her credit, she manages to make this amusing (it's heard, not seen). But when a few thumbnail reviews say Agnes Jaoui could do no better, one wonders what Agnes Jaoui they've been watching. Pu-lease! This has none of the dry wit of Family Resenblances, The Taste of Others, or Look at Me.
What I like about Deux vies plus une (Two Lives Plus One) is the way it feels as if nothing is happening. The screenwriter (Cebula, presumably) is so laid back she's almost asleep, and it's nice for this kind of comedy to feel so unforced in that way. Despite the clichés, including a hoary father visited at a cemetery, the casualness does achieve a certain naturalism.
One would not want to say Ms. Devos is wasted. She is never wasted, because she turns her moments to gold. In the end Deux vies plus une, which Le Monde's reviewer called "terribly superficial and conventional," is, one may venture to say, too thinly plotted to provide material for a Hollywood remake. And that's a plus.
For a more interesting lightweight recent comedy featuring Devos, see if you can find it Sophie Filliere's whimsical Gentille/Good Girl (2005), which has a more interesting cast that includes Bruno Todeschini, Lambert Wilson, Michel Londsdale, and Bulle Ogier. Or go to the good stuff, which would include Desplechin's Esther Kahn, My Sex Life, and Kings and Queen, Audiard's Read My Lips and The Beat My Heart Skipped, and Frederic Fonteyne's Gille's Wife.
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