In his latest outing with a fetching young actress, French helmer Benoit Jacquot (“The Disenchanted”) throws the clock, and conventional cinematic technique, out the window. An initially interesting experiment in real-time storytelling, “A Single Girl” delivers 80 unbroken and ultimately irritating minutes in the life of a pretty hotel waitress (Virginie Ledoyen). A triumph of continuity, pic should thrill a small clique of arthouse diehards and film historians in search of an odd footnote, as well as anyone who wonders how hotel room service works.
However intriguing its real-time conceit and however ingenious its exercise in directorial problem-solving, “A Single Girl” often resembles a job-training film in need of an editor. Pic opens in a Paris cafe with an admirably scripted scene of early-morning bickering between Valerie (Ledoyen) and boyfriend Remi (Benoit Magimel). She tells him she’s pregnant, then crosses the street to start her new job.
As Valerie spends the next hour or so delivering breakfast to groggy hotel guests, she gets acquainted with her fellow employees. They range from standoffish Sabine (Vera Briole) and sexual harasser Jean-Marc (Michel Bompoil) to over-friendly Fatiah (Virginie Emane) and gently clownish Patrice (Jean-Chretien Sibertin-Blanc). At coffee break, after an upsetting episode in which Valerie brings breakfast to a couple engaged in sex, she returns to the cafe and breaks off with Remi.
In the only betrayal of the real-time formula, pic’s epilogue takes up the action several years in the future, when single parent Valerie goes to a park to discuss the solitary life with her comically diffident mother, played by Paris stage veteran Dominique Valadie.
Solid perfs by the supporting cast ensure a realistic backdrop against which we follow every step of the main character, but by pic’s end even Ledoyen’s most ardent admirers will need a breather. It is to be hoped that helmer Jacquot’s next feature with Ledoyen, “Marianne,” will use her charm to more conventional advantage. Tech credits are adequate.