A misanthropic drama about an adman who starts telling his friends and family what he really thinks of them.

After the mostly warm and fuzzy dramedy “Conversations With My Gardener,” Gallic helmer Jean Becker explores cold and nasty in “Love Me No More,” a misanthropic drama about an adman who starts telling his friends and family what he really thinks of them. Pic is competently assembled, if ultimately sentimental, but the lead character’s profound unpleasantness may prove a turn-off for auds. However, a minority will undoubtedly find his bourgeois baiting, misogyny and all-around curmudgeon schtick a thrill. Local release is skedded for April 30.

During a meeting with a client, 42-year-old Paris-based ad exec Antoine (Albert Dupontel, trading on his rough-diamond persona) starts unexpectedly abusing both the product and the client. Advised to take some time off, Antoine goes one step further and quits the company, which he co-owns. He storms out to have lunch with an attractive woman who may or may not be his mistress — the one person in the film he doesn’t verbally abuse.

Since this day happens to be his birthday, it’s suggested that Antoine having a massive midlife crisis, but he seems hellbent on inducing a crisis in everyone else around him, whatever their age. He tells his wife Cecile (Marie-Josee Croze) that he doesn’t love her and never has. Then, one by one, he insults all his closest friends at the surprise party Cecile’s organized, ridiculing their hypocrisy and champagne-socialist lifestyles. He even rips into his young children for spelling mistakes on their birthday cards.

His work seemingly done in France, Antoine sets off on a road trip that eventually leads to Ireland. Here, he meets up with his father (Pierre Vaneck), a loner, not unlike Antoine, who’s never met his grandchildren.

Auds well-versed in the rules of melodrama will think the rocky relationship with dad is the root of Antoine’s problems. However, a further twist is in store, hinted at by pic’s French title (literally, “Two Days to Kill”).

Antoine’s caustic put-downs are often witty, and lacerate certain middle-class pretensions with cruel accuracy; pic could almost play as a comedy if the nastiness weren’t so total. The twist, when it comes, will hardly let Antoine off the hook for many auds, who may be left feeling he’s an even bigger monster than he initially seemed.

Still, Dupontel goes at it with gusto, and largely carries the pic with his charisma. Supports are fine, if rather overshadowed and underwritten.

Tech package is pro but nothing special. Score by Alain and Patrick Goraguer gets more syrupy as the story wears on, in an attempt to milk sympathy that may well have dried up by the time the strings set in.

Love Me No More

France

Production

An ICE3 production, in association with KJB Production, StudioCanal, France 2 Cinema, with participation of Canal Plus, Cinecinema. (International sales: StudioCanal, Paris.) Produced by Louis Becker. Directed by Jean Becker. Screenplay, Eric Assous, Francois d'Epenoux, Becker, based on a novel by d'Epenoux.

Crew

Camera (color), Arthur Cloquet; editor, Jacques Witta; music, Alain Goraguer, Patrick Goraguer; production designer, Therese Ripaud; costume designer, Annie Perier; sound (Dolby Digital), Francois Domerc. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (market), Feb. 8, 2008. Running time: 85 MIN.

With

Albert Dupontel, Marie-Josee Croze, Pierre Vaneck, Alessandra Martines, Cristiana Reali, Mathias Mlekus, Claire Nebout, Francois Marthouret, Anne Loiret, Jose Paul.

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