Just Between Us

In "Just Between Us," a mild-mannered building contractor has an exhausting day when the previously parallel universes of his wife and mistress suddenly collide. Reasonably well-sustained farce sports a sweet punch line and a likable ensemble cast, but isn't particularly memorable or distinctive. This helming debut by thesp Martin Lamotte seems destined for modest success at hardtops but is ideal for primetime tube slots.

In “Just Between Us,” a mild-mannered building contractor has an exhausting day when the previously parallel universes of his wife and mistress suddenly collide. Reasonably well-sustained farce sports a sweet punch line and a likable ensemble cast, but isn’t particularly memorable or distinctive. This helming debut by thesp Martin Lamotte seems destined for modest success at hardtops but is ideal for primetime tube slots.

Fortyish Patrick (Sam Karmann) has been married to Helene (Catherine Frot) for 15 years. They have two sons, live in a blue house with white shutters and tonight is their wedding anniversary. Unbeknownst to the forgetful Patrick, Helene has planned a surprise party with their closest friends and relatives invited for the weekend.

It’s been four years since Patrick met the other love of his life, Elizabeth (co-scripter Carol Brenner), a painter who lives in an identical blue house 5 kilometers down the road and with whom he has a darling 2-year-old daughter. Tonight is the big engagement party for their neighbor’s son.

So far Patrick — whose work on multiple construction sites has taught him how to juggle complicated logistics — has managed to lead his double life without either woman suspecting the real score. If he has to eat two dinners or make love twice in the same day, that’s to be expected. Patrick is very happy but very, very tired.

Told in flashback as Patrick lies in his hospital bed, pic takes its time introducing the multitude of weekend guests. Marie (Zabou) is married to medico Richard (Lamotte). Unemployed friend Gilles (Antoine Dulery) arrives with his girlfriend of one week, sexy 20-year-old waitress Carine (Severine Ferrer). Helene’s sister Martine (Isabelle Nanty) has a lousy track record with men: Her latest swain is Maurice (Francois Morel), a conscientiously mellow tai-chi instructor who turns belligerent when he hits the bottle. Insecure Agnes (Fanny Cottencon) and her sassy daughter live with TV personality and inveterate skirt chaser JP (Stephane Freiss), who has just procured a canary yellow Porsche.

As the competing evenings unfold, Patrick runs himself ragged trying to be in two places at once, and his lifestyle blows up in his face. But the ultimate outcome isn’t at all what he — or the audience — expects.

Lending appealing quirks to a broad gallery of types, the actors keep things fairly lively and watchable. Zabou, as a bourgeois princess who can’t lift a finger, is particular fun, as is Freiss as the unapologetic ladies man. As Patrick and his wife, Karmann and Frot keep the narrative grounded.

Lensing is straightforward, as is the workmanlike score.

Just Between Us

(FARCE -- FRENCH)

Production: A Polygram Film Distribution release (in France) of Hugo Films, Canal Plus, M 6 Films, CAPAC production. Produced by Xavier Gelin, Stephane Marsil. Directed by Martin Lamotte. Screenplay, Carol Brenner, Jean-Carol Larrive.

Crew: Camera (color), Jean-Yves Le Menier; editors, Yves Deschamps, Agathe Devaux-Charbonnel; music, Norbert Krief, David Jacob, Costa Papadoukas; art director, Nicolas Prier; costume designer, Martine Rapin; sound (Dolby Digital), Pierre Befve, Claude Villand, Christian Fontaine; associate producer, Paul Claudon; assistant director, Jean-Christophe Delpias; casting, Anita Benoist. Reviewed at Club Gaumont screening room, Paris, April 9, 1998. Running time: 88 MIN.

With: With: Catherine Frot, Sam Karmann, Carol Brenner, Fanny Cottencon, Antoine Dulery, Severine Ferrer, Stephane Freiss, Martin Lamotte, Francois Morel, Isabelle Nanty, Zabou.

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