Aplacid comedy about conniving to conceive, "X,Y" is a slightly overlong two-hander that tackles contemporary issues pegged to romance, ethics, the law of the jungle and test-tube babies. Although contrived lead duo generates only slightly more chemistry than Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie, pic could propagate fair biz at Gallic wickets by virtue of its subject matter.

Aplacid comedy about conniving to conceive, “X,Y” is a slightly overlong two-hander that tackles contemporary issues pegged to romance, ethics, the law of the jungle and test-tube babies. Although contrived lead duo generates only slightly more chemistry than Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie, pic could propagate fair biz at Gallic wickets by virtue of its subject matter.

Mild-mannered bachelor and dutiful son Eric Fleury (Patrick Braoude) heads up a family firm that has made simple wooden toys for several generations. Ballbusting business exec Sandrine Rey (Clementine Celarie) announces to Eric that since her company now holds a controlling interest in Fleury & Sons, he’ll probably be ousted, and the 100%-made-in-France concern will be transferred to Asia.

With an icy dispatch rarely seen since Faye Dunaway set the standard in “Network,” Sandrine then makes her counter-pitch: She’s 36, unmarried and desperate to have a child. If Eric will marry her and father a bambino, she’ll see to it that he can buy back his beloved family business.

After some amusing shtick to determine whether his sperm is up to snuff, they pair conclude the highly mercenary deal. What Sandrine neglects to reveal, however, is that she has no intention of actually having sex with her new husband; all she wants is his sperm for artificial insemination. Eric, who is a bit more old-fashioned, insists on fertilizing an egg the traditional way.

So ensues a battle of the sexes, with the newlyweds maintaining appearances for Eric’s parents and Sandrine’s colleagues, while thrusting and parying behind the scenes with every trick in their respective arsenals. Sandrine has a convoluted secret agenda that’s supposed to make her more human, but, because Eric is so sincere about becoming a father, her motivations and tactics may not endear her to some viewers.

As the bitchy and expedient Sandrine, Celarie is all business from head to toe. Braoude, as scripter-director and co-star of the original “Nine Months,” as well as proud dad in the subtler and funnier “Grossesse nerveuse,” has made variations on contemporary parenthood something of a cottage industry. Here, he is a bland but sincere Everyguy.

Frank talk about sperm, ovulating, fallopian tubes, hot flashes and the like is worked into the dialogue with casual Gallic flair, although pic runs out of steam well before the poorly handled conclusion. As a running visual pun, plenty of shots are included of “sterile” modern architecture on the outskirts of Paris. Dollops of music punctuate the proceedings to OK effect.

X,Y

(FRENCH-BELGIAN)

Production

An AFMD release (in France) of a Lumiere/Blackberry Film/Multimedia/TF1 Films/Gefilte Films production, with participation of Canal Plus and Cofimage. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Paris.) Produced by Nicolas Altmayer, Erwin Provoost. Directed, written by Jean-Paul Lilienfeld. Camera (color), Michel Cenet; editor, Roland Baubeau; music, Jacques Davidovici; art direction, Sylvie Olive; costume design, Mimi Lempicka; sound (Dolby), Michel Kharat; assistant director, Eric Allaire. Reviewed at Club Gaumont screening room, Paris, Jan. 3, 1996. Running time:? 104 MIN.

With

Sandrine Rey ... Clementine Celarie Eric Fleury ... Patrick Braoude
With: Jenny Cleve, Maurice Chevit, Patricia Malvoisin, Jean-Paul Lilienfeld, Chantal Lauby, Jean-Paul Comart, Jean-Francois Balmer, Marie-Sophie Berthier.

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