A couple in crisis decides that “Changing Sides” will remedy their marital woes in writer-director Pascale Pouzadoux’s mildly amusing sophomore comedy. Although this guerre des sexes tale of a wife becoming a corporate bigwig as her hubby plays Mr. Mom is ridden with enough two-way sexism to feel like a fictionalized “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” stars Sophie Marceau and Dany Boon redeem much of the clotted material, while flashy filmmaking helps the shenanigans pass by at lightning speed. French B.O. should be boosted by Boon’s “Welcome to the Sticks” fans, overseas numbers less so.
Adapted from journalist/author Alix Girod de l’Ain’s successful French novel, the scenario — co-written with scribe Gregoire Vigneron (“Moliere”) — plays like one of those self-help books that claims to have the solution to the debacles of long-term relationships. In this instance, the antidote takes the form of an extended spousal role-swapping that, sadly, leaves little room for any kind of mutual understanding, but provides lots of opportunities for two adults to get their rocks off while they pretend to be the other half.
Action cuts to the chase in the first reel, when embittered hausfrau and mother of two Ariane (Marceau) threatens her exec husband Hugo (Boon) with separation unless he agrees to switch jobs for a year.
Initially, Hugo can’t handle all the shopping, cooking and school drop-offs, but he soon warms to the daily chores. While, after a rocky start, Ariane quickly rules Hugo’s power-tool company with an iron fist, impressing the staff and seducing a fellow looker manager (Francois Vincentelli). Their brief affair causes a second crisis that’s resolved hastily, and without much logic, in the closing reels.
Throughout their adventure, the couple receives help from a bailiff doubling as a marital consultant (Antoine Dulery), and his waves of cliche-ridden advice provide some of the pic’s more stomach-churning moments: He constantly tells Ariane she must be ambitious, focused, rough and thoughtless to be a successful “man.”
Meanwhile, Hugo, who takes up his wife’s part-time jewelry sales gig, is advised to seduce his female clientele “like a woman,” so he starts plucking his eyebrows and chatting for hours over afternoon tea. Never once does the idea pop up that a husband and wife could excel at each other’s roles simply by being themselves, rather than by resorting to a vulgar and superficial form of transvestitism.
Such boldly sexist assumptions — coming from a book and a film that were both conceived by women — are thankfully saved by some well-timed gags and smart all-around thesping. Boon (in his first screen bow since last year’s smash “Sticks”) gracefully underplays Hugo, avoiding the Gallic tendency to turn gender-hopping into vaudeville.
Tech credits are pro but often overreach, with d.p. Pierre Gill (“The Art of War”) and editor Sylvie Gadmer (“Sagan”) employing the kinds of cutesy camerawork and cutaways that have become a staple for French comedies since “Amelie.”