A celebrity ghostwriter wrestles with what he really wants in “The Story of My Life,” a splendidly cast, laugh-out-loud investigation of urban romance and self-actualization among Parisian thirtysomethings. Although European touches abound, structure of former film journalist Laurent Tirard’s sharply written feature debut registers quite a bit like a Hollywood comedy that happens to be in French. Pic, whose title translates as “Lies and Betrayal — and more if compatible” should do solid biz when it opens in Gaul Sept 8.
Boyish, insouciant Raphael (Edouard Baer) — whose abundant voiceover musings are well-honed enough not to seem like a too-convenient storytelling crutch — makes a nice living from fashioning the mumblings of famous people into bestselling autobiographies.
Raphael is accustomed to deferring to his subjects, but isn’t quite sure how to cope with his latest assignment, Kevin (Clovis Cornillac), the idolized captain of France’s leading soccer team. Although Raphael is enjoying his relationship with self-possessed architect Muriel (Marie-Josee Croze), he flips out when he realizes Kevin’s girlfriend Claire (Alice Taglioni) is the same woman he yearned to impress in college.
Raphael tries to woo Claire behind both Kevin and Muriel’s backs while continuing to incorporate the soccer-star’s ever-changing stylistic whims into the manuscript. Resulting machinations are fertile territory for a comic exploration of base motivations, cowardice-based creativity, lying one’s way into corners and other features of the romantic jungle.
Raphael’s best male buddies, would-be photographer Jeff (Eric Berger) and rolling-in-dough businessman Max (Jean-Michel Lahmi) rep other variations on love and money as measuring sticks for success and personal satisfaction. Max’s adventures with speed-dating are a good example of narrative’s ever-so-French yet universal bent.
Tirard, who studied filmmaking in New York prior to a seven-year career at Studio Magazine, is clearly out to entertain. Borrowing a few ideas from the “Cyrano” template while interjecting unpredictable twists among the familiar turns, pic immortalizes the selfish rootlessness of a generation in which women have gained power in the workplace, leaving many men unsure what’s expected of them or even what they expect of themselves.
Cornillac steals the show as the athlete whose ego is as formidable as his soccer prowess, but entire cast is spot-on.
Jaunty widescreen lensing is a plus, as are little flights of fancy set in other eras and a seg that is certainly the best use of a wild boar and an automobile in recent memory.