A glossy romantic comedy filled with amusing pratfalls and palpable chemistry, “Happiness Never Comes Alone” also explores the oft-occurring but rarely seen problems associated with starting a new relationship and having a decent love life while trying to raise three attention-demanding kids. This likable piece of mainstream fluff from Gallic filmmaker James Huth (“Brice de Nice”), headlined by French stars Sophie Marceau and Gad Elmaleh, has done brisk summer biz in Gaul, where it’s closing in on 1.5 million admissions. Squarely aimed at babysitter-requiring auds, this old-Hollywood-style date movie should appeal especially to Euro distribs.
Montmartre dweller Sacha (Elmaleh), a Jewish jazz composer, and Charlotte (Marceau), the head of a Parisian foundation that supports contempo visual artists, literally bump into each other when leaving the chic headquarters of the company that Sacha has written a jingle for and that Charlotte’s organization is funded by.
The meet-cute moment is more of a “meet wet,” as it unfolds in the middle of a rainstorm, and Charlotte falls face down onto the pavement before she’s even exchanged two words with Sacha. The scene immediately sets a tone of romantically heightened reality that clearly harks back to classic Hollywood screwball comedies, where it never rains but it pours, and where accidents that would K.O. any normal person are instead clumsily affecting and without long-term consequences.
Of course, despite their different backgrounds, working-class artist Sacha and high-society darling Charlotte have a lot in common, starting with the fact their own personalities are overshadowed to an unhealthy extent by others. For Sacha, it’s his famous, identically named pianist father, who died years earlier, while for Charlotte, it is her husband, Alain (Francois Berleand), from whom she’s separated but not divorced, and who owns the company Sacha and Charlotte both work for.
Another complicating factor in this nascent romance is the presence of Charlotte’s three children (Timeo Leloup, Milena Chiron, Timothe Gauron), who can’t accept that their daily routine might be upended for something as insignificant as Mom’s new lover. Initially, Sacha tries to hide from the pint-sized domestic terrorists, as in a simple but effective running gag in which the beanpole composer simply stands still and pretends not to be there.
The screenplay, written by Huth and his wife, Sonja Shillito, finds just the right balance between his and her perspectives, while the actors breathe life into their slightly cliched characters by keeping things low-key and affable, displaying enough chemistry to have auds root for them against all odds.
Some of the bigger setpieces, including an impromptu water ballet caused by faulty bathroom plumbing, are perfectly choreographed and timed, with Marceau clearly enjoying the opportunity for physical comedy. After appearing alongside Audrey Tautou in “Priceless,” popular standup comic Elmaleh here offers further evidence he’s got solid romantic-lead appeal. Berleand is deliciously evil, while the kids are cute without being overly mannered.
Tech package is silky smooth, with both Paris and New York (where Sacha dreams of making a musical) bathed in warm, saturated colors. The production design further underlines the film’s influences by including various conspicuously placed movie posters. Pic’s playlist is appropriately filled with recognizable, jazzy titles.