Review: ‘Trouble’

A keep-'em-guessing identical twins thriller with visual flair to burn, "Trouble" is a deft -- if ultimately silly -- slice of cinema. Story of a happily married father whose wife is pregnant when he learns he has an identical twin brother, is classy genre fare anchored by a bang-up dual performance by Benoit Magimel. A guilty pleasure best enjoyed on the bigscreen, modestly budgeted pic looks terrific and warrants a look for fests and beyond. First-week biz in France has been only so-so.

A keep-’em-guessing identical twins thriller with visual flair to burn, “Trouble” is a deft — if ultimately silly — slice of cinema. Story of a happily married father whose wife is pregnant when he learns he has an identical twin brother, is classy genre fare anchored by a bang-up dual performance by Benoit Magimel. A guilty pleasure best enjoyed on the bigscreen, modestly budgeted pic looks terrific and warrants a look for fests and beyond. First-week biz in France has been only so-so.

Matyas (Magimel), a commercial photographer specializing in school portraits, lives in a cocoon of domestic satisfaction with his wife, Claire (Natacha Regnier), and their young son, Pierre. Claire’s belly is enormous, so the couple hasn’t been having sex lately, but that’s the only blip in their bliss.

Until, that is, Matyas gets a letter informing him that his mother has just died and there’s an inheritance. As Matyas believed himself to be an orphan from the age of six, that’s a shock. But not as strong as the jolt he gets at the reading of the will, where he meets his twin brother, Thomas (also Magimel).

Matyas has no memory of a twin — no memory of his childhood, in fact. Fissures appear in the facade of his middle-class contentment, and spread and deepen, as the suave, mysterious Thomas starts visiting Claire and Pierre. Thomas also encourages Matyas to visit his own wife, the shapely, hot-to-trot Elena (Hannah Novak).

Fourth feature by Belgian writer-director (and occasional thesp) Harry Cleven is thoughtfully executed at every level, with Matyas’ growing unease abetted by a suitably unsettling score and nifty sound design. Cleven, who favors close-ups and extreme close-ups, also knows how to exploit the widescreen frame. Playing up Magimel’s cleft chin and sensual profile, the camera treats the planes of the actor’s face like a Tamara de Lempicka portrait made flesh. Shots in which the twins appear together are seamless.

Alas, the script, written by five people, including Cleven, doesn’t hold up quite as well to close scrutiny. But this is the kind of pic whose chief pleasures are in its creepy atmosphere and gradual accretion of clues, rather than the strict plausibility of its baroque twists.

Trouble

France-Belgium

Production

A TFM Distribution (in France)/Films de l'Elysees (Belgium) release of an Outsider Prods., France 3 Cinema/To Do Today Prods., RTBF (Belgium) production. (International sales: TF1 Intl., Paris.) Produced by Laurent Brochand. Executive producers, Bertrand Hostachi, Rosanne Van Hasebrouck, Olivier Abrassart. Directed by Harry Cleven. Screenplay, Cleven, Jerome Salle, Isabelle Coudrier, Sophie Hiet, Yann Le Nevet.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Vincent Mathias; editor, Matyas Veress; music, George Van Dam, Dimitri Coppe; production designer, Herbert Pouille; costume designer, Monique Parelle; sound (Dolby), Christian Monheim; visual effects, Mikros Image; effects supervisor, KRAO; associate producer, Arlette Zylberberg. Reviewed at UGC Les Halles, Paris, March 12, 2005. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Benoit Magimel, Natacha Regnier, Olivier Gourmet, Hannah Novak.
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