Slick, shallow romantic comedy.

A self-involved screenwriter makes a mess of his relationships with women while learning that real life doesn’t conform to classic narrative structure in the slick, shallow romantic comedy “Truth About Men,” from Danish helmer Nikolaj Arcel. Not delivering nearly as many home truths as it might, this glib tale of an immature thirtysomething’s quest for happiness and self-fulfillment attracted nearly 100,000 admissions during its October release on home turf. Remake potential might tempt other markets.

A colleague’s sudden illness prompts a re-examination of life for TV serial “structure” guy Mads (Thure Lindhardt, lacking the charisma to make his character sympathetic), after spending a decade on autopilot. Taking inspiration from his callow teenage goals (“Live your life as if it were a guitar solo,” “Never grow old”), he dumps live-in girlfriend Marie (Tuva Novotny) and decides to write a profound screenplay and discover the woman of his dreams. Easier said than done.

A series of bad dates looks to lead him down a path he’s trod before — until he opts to pursue 19-year-old wild thing Julie (Rosalinde Mynster), who reminds him of his high school dream girl. It’s no surprise when the failure of their relationship throws him into a tailspin.

With a screenplay driven more by high concept than by characterization, helmer Arcel and his longtime writing partner Rasmus Heisterberg continually stress the irony of the protag’s occupation and his general cluelessness about his personal development. Pic’s funniest moments center on Mads visualizing his trite writing attempts — played out in a variety of genres with amusing cameos from big Danish stars including Anders W. Bertelsen, Kim Bodnia, Nicolas Bro and Lars Mikelsen — and imagining alternate scenarios for his own life.

In a clever touch, the dialogue that rings truest is delivered in female voices, whether it’s the narrator of the sex-education tape the young Mads watches in the film’s opening moments (“To be good at love, a man must put aside his needs to concentrate on hers”); or Mads’ pal Louise (Signe Egholm Olsen), who cynically notes that he should have no trouble on the dating scene because “single women in their 30s — they’ll go home with you”; or his wise sex-therapist mother (Karen-Lise Mynster).

Bland production package, dominated by unremarkable interiors and night scenes, fails to exploit the widescreen format but has fun with superimposed text and diagrams.

Truth About Men

Denmark

Production

A Nordisk Film Distribution of a Zentropa Entertainments 25 production with support from the Danish Film Institute in collaboration with Danish Radio and Film i Vast. (International sales: TrustNordisk, Hvidovre, Denmark). Produced by Meta Louise Foldager, Louise Vesth. Executive producer, Peter Aalbaek Jensen. Directed by Nikolaj Arcel. Screenplay, Arcel, Rasmus Heisterberg.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Rasmus Videbaek; editor, Mikkel E.G. Nielsen; music, Asger Baden, Steen Holbek; production designer, Thomas Bremer; sound (Dolby SR Digital), Claus Lynge, Hans Christian Kock. Reviewed at Gothenburg Film Festival (competing), Feb. 1, 2011. Running time: 92 MIN.

With

Thure Lindhardt, Tuva Novotny, Rosalinde Mynster, Signe Egholm Olsen, Henning Valin, Karen-Lise Mynster, Anders W. Bertelsen, Kim Bodnia, Nicolas Bro, Lars Mikelsen.
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