Review: ‘My Wife Is An Actress’

Actor Yvan Attal's first full-length feature as director is a sporadically amusing but ultimately very slight showbiz story about being married to a celebrity.

Actor Yvan Attal’s first full-length feature as director is a sporadically amusing but ultimately very slight showbiz story about being married to a celebrity. Most of the jokes and situations are predictable, and the film is saddled with irritating supporting characters, though leads Charlotte Gainsbourg, Attal himself and Terence Stamp lend some class to the proceedings. Modest returns are to be expected from international distribution of this pleasant, but minor, effort.

Pic gets off to a bright start with Ella Fitzgerald warbling “Lullaby of Birdland” on the soundtrack and beautiful black-and-white photographs of Hollywood stars of another era behind the opening credit titles. A voiceover explains that, in Paris, where there’s a street named Rue de Dames, there are 1.14 women for every man and that 10,000 of them are actresses — all of them wacko.

Yvan (Attal) is a TV sports journalist who counts himself lucky to have married a famous actress, Charlotte (Gainsbourg). But it irritates him when strangers ogle her, or when she’s able to use her name to book a table at a restaurant after he’s been told it’s full. A stranger who says he got aroused watching the sex scene in Charlotte’s latest pic adds to the jealous husband’s angst.

Charlotte is off to London to make a film at Pinewood in which she plays love scenes with a famous British actor (Stamp). Nervous about her nude scene, she suggests to the director (Keith Allen) that the entire crew strip to film the scene, and, to her amazement, he agrees. That, of course, is the moment Yvan chooses to pay a surprise visit to the set.

Attal’s screenplay provides few real insights into the problems of being married to a celebrity, with all the jokes pretty obvious ones. The writer-director has padded out the pic with lengthy sequences involving Yvan’s pregnant sister (a strident Noemie Lvovsky), who is a generally irritating character, and her milksop husband (Laurent Bateau). Scenes in which Yvan decides to attend acting school to find out more about his wife’s profession yield little.

Gainsbourg is fresh and attractive in a very undemanding role, while Attal brings more style to his performance as the ruffled, obsessed spouse than he does to his work as director. Stamp plays the suave British actor with effortless, practiced charm, and some of the minor characters, like the director who insists on a nude scene, and his assistant (Jo McInnes), who has a small crush on Stamp, are more interesting than the more prominent supporting players.

Production values are crisp and snappy.

My Wife Is An Actress

France

Production

A Sony Pictures Classics (in U.S.) release of a Renn Prods. production, in association with TF1 Films. (International sales: President Films, Paris.) Produced by Claude Berri. Executive producer, Pierre Grunstein. Directed, written by Yvan Attal.

Crew

Camera (color), Remy Chevrin; editor, Jennifer Auger; production designer, Katia Wyszkop; costume designer, Jacqueline Bouchard; sound (Dolby SR), Didier Sain; line producer, Nicole Firn; assistant director, Pascal Roy; casting, Gerard Moulevrier. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (special presentation), Sept. 12, 2001. Running time: 95 MIN.

With

Charlotte - Charlotte Gainsbourg
Yvan - Yvan Attal
John - Terence Stamp
Nathalie - Noemie Lvovsky
Vincent - Laurent Bateau
Geraldine - Ludivine Sagnier
David - Keith Allen
Georges - Lionel Abelanski
Assistant Director - Jo McInnes
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