Atepid bedroom farce set in London, Calais and the Italian countryside, “Barnie’s Minor Annoyances” revolves around a mopey cipher who attracts more sexual attention than Dirk Diggler. However, why the prevaricating Barnie should rate the love and sexual blandishments of attractive representatives from two generations and both sexes is never convincingly conveyed in this stilted and contrived romp. Trading the traditional romantic triangle for an oh-so-contemporary rectangle renders the proceedings strangely square. Pic nevertheless made a strong local debut in late February.
Ship designer Barnie (Fabrice Luchini) lives in Calais with his wife, Lucie (Nathalie Baye), but commutes daily via Eurostar train to London. That’s where his French-speaking British lover, an auctioneer named Mark (Hugo Speer), and his much younger French mistress, a graphic designer named Margot (Marie Gillain), live. Lucie, Mark and Margot all think they have Barnie to themselves.
For Barnie’s 45th birthday, each of the three has separately obtained tickets-for-two on the Orient Express to Venice. Suddenly afraid of losing his wife, Barnie returns the tickets to Margot and Mark with affectionate letters, but the correspondences get mixed up. Hopping mad, Margot and Mark, posing as a couple, land on Barnie’s doorstep. While unlikely setup has potential, direction by first-time helmer Bruno Chiche is never sufficiently light or winsome. Final stretch on the Orient Express is excruciatingly random.
Venture relies too much on theatrical conventions that fail to transcend the conveniences of rather stale vaudeville. Result is inferior to Ilan Duran Cohen’s late December release “Confusion of Genders,” which took an infinitely subtler approach to the plight of an indecisive guy with both men and women at his unremarkable feet.
Played as a smug, beleaguered wimp by Luchini, Barnie seems neither worth fighting over or worth watching.