Review: ‘I Do’

To get his overbearing family off his back, a soft-hearted hardened bachelor pays a free-spirited young woman to pose as his fiancee in "I Do." Largely due to affection for leads Alain Chabat and Charlotte Gainsbourg, this sweet but inconsequential romantic comedy has been a runaway hit since its Nov. 1 release in Gaul.

To get his overbearing family off his back, a soft-hearted hardened bachelor pays a free-spirited young woman to pose as his fiancee in “I Do.” Largely due to affection for leads Alain Chabat and Charlotte Gainsbourg — both in fine form here — this sweet but inconsequential romantic comedy has been a runaway hit since its Nov. 1 release in Gaul, so far racking up almost 2.7 million admissions. Belgium and Switzerland are already tying the knot with solid openings, and basic premise could be remade in any country where coupledom is prized.

Luis (Chabat), age 43, has avoided serious relationships since his jovially domineering mother (Bernadette Lafont) and five sisters drove off his true love when he was 21. He makes out fine with women and enjoys his work as a “nose,” concocting upscale fragrances for a Paris perfumerie. However, the six femmes in Luis’ family, fed up with doing his laundry and shopping, resolve to find him a spouse, whether he likes it or not.

To halt the constant pitbull-like matchmaking, Luis contracts with a colleague’s sister, Emma (Gainsbourg), to pretend to be his bride-to-be. Her assignment is to win over his family, then deliberately stand him up on their wedding day. Luis’ theory is that he’ll then be left alone to “grieve,” preferably for years to come.

In private, the faux-lovebirds are strictly business and use the formal form of “you” (“vous”) to navigate their prickly arrangement. But during her contractual social appearances, Emma deftly says and does all the right things to convince Luis’ extended family that she’s the one. However, on the wedding day, the charade takes on an unforeseen life of its own.

Intelligently paced narrative allows Gainsbourg to flaunt her range, from charmingly resourceful to hurtful and odious. While there are some nice gags and funny setbacks along the way, outcome is fairly predictable.

Helmer’s two previous pics, “Who Killed Pamela Rose?” and the unwarranted flop, “Ticket Into Space,” were off-kilter comedies with a high guffaw factor to match their originality. Current effort ups the emotional stakes but remains in conventional (if enjoyable) movie territory from start to finish.

Original French title translates as “Lend me your hand” — as in both “let me hold it” and “let me borrow it.”

I Do

Production

A Mars Distribution release of a Chez Wam presentation of a Chez Wam, StudioCanal, Script Associes, TF1 Films Prod. production. (International sales: StudioCanal, Issy les Moulineaux, France.) Produced by Patrick Bordier, Alain Chabat, Amandine Billot, Christine Rouxel. Directed by Eric Lartigau. Screenplay, Laurent Zeitoun, Philippe Mechelen, Laurent Tirard, Gregoire Vigneron, Alain Chabat, based on an idea by Chabat.

Crew

Camera (color), Regis Blondeau; editor, Juliette Welfling; music, Erwann Kermorvant; art director, Sylvie Olive; costume designer, Anne Schotte; sound (Dolby), Laurent Zeilig, Sylvain Lasseur, Jean Rangon; assistant director, Frederic Drouilhat; casting, Pierre-Jacques Benichou. Reviewed at UGC Odeon, Paris, Nov. 28, 2006. Running time: 86 MIN.

With

Alain Chabat, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Bernadette Lafont, Wladimir Yordanoff, Gregoire Oestermann, Veronique Barrault, Marie-Armelle Deguy, Katia Lewkowicz, Louise Monot, Luce Mouchel, Christiane Millet, Aissa Maiga, Tatiana Gousseff, Alix de Konopka.
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