Three Couples Looking For Trouble

A sudsy ensembler about middle-aged French professionals, "Three Couples Looking for Trouble" tries hard to put a cinematic spin on situations testing love and friendship, but too many still seem stuck on the printed page.

With:
With: Aurelien Recoing, Samuel Labarthe, Claire Nebout, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Laurence Cote, Hippolyte Girardot, Delphine Rollin, Clotilde De Bayser, Steve Suissa.

A sudsy ensembler about middle-aged French professionals, “Three Couples Looking for Trouble” tries hard to put a cinematic spin on situations testing love and friendship, but too many still seem stuck on the printed page. Self-explanatory title refers to an incestuous group of friends whose impetuous mistakes, midlife regrets and current yearnings are collective property. As thesps acquit themselves reasonably well, semi-fluid result is watchable — but far from inspired. Fests and tube outlets looking for conventional, relationship-oriented European filmmaking will find this fits the bill.

Handsome doctor Olivier (Samuel Labarthe) collapses from a cerebral hemorrhage that leaves him in a wheelchair with only his left arm unaffected. Olivier’s best friend, high school prof Remi (Aurelien Recoing), and his sculptress wife, Estelle (Claire Nebout), take Olivier in and suggest he date Marianne (Laurence Cote), a widow.

Flashbacks show that two years prior, Olivier abruptly dumped his wife and son for a much younger babe, Stephanie (Delphine Rollin). Her reaction to his diminished physical capacities proves both cowardly and expedient.

When he was young and idealistic, Olivier romanced Pascale (Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu), who’s now married to government official Jean-Xavier (Hippolyte Girardot, playing a third pleasingly whacked-out role in short order, after “Modigliani” and “Kings and Queen”). Pascale is a documaker, and the couple have two gorgeous kids.

However, Jean-Xavier’s obsession with completing a book about his late grandfather has reduced his and Pascale’s conjugal activities to zero. When a slickly ambitious politician (Steve Suissa) comes on to Pascale, Jean-Xavier comes to his senses — sort of.

Pic bounces back and forth in time, illustrating recent developments in the characters’ intertwined lives. But the effect is strangely hermetic, right down to putting too much faith in the cathartic value of that French movie staple, the group vacation in a large house by the beach.

Both the cast and helmer Jacques Otmezguine convey a sincerity and affection for the material, but most of pic’s emotional impact is imposed rather than earned, a distinction unlikely to bother TV viewers. Animated opening credits are highly appealing.

Three Couples Looking For Trouble

France

Production: A Challenge Films release of a Nelly Kafsky/Claude Carrere presentation of a Mazel Prods., Carrere Group, France 2 Cinema production, with participation of CineCinema, Groupe TSF, Saga Film, Poitou-Charentes Region, LTC, CNC. (International sales: Wide Management, Paris.) Produced by Nelly Kafsky. Co-producer, Claude Carrere. Directed, written by Jacques Otmezguine, from the novel by Lionel Duroy.

Crew: Camera (color), Mario Barroso; editor, Jean Dubreuil; music, Stephane Zidi; production designers, Emmanuel Sorin, Laure Sorin; costume designer, Sylvaine Combes; sound (Dolby), Ricardo Castro, Claude Gazeau; main title animation, Renato; assistant director, Michel Guillerm; casting, Otmezguine. Reviewed at UGC Danton, Paris, April 25, 2005. Running time: 103 MIN.

With: With: Aurelien Recoing, Samuel Labarthe, Claire Nebout, Philippine Leroy-Beaulieu, Laurence Cote, Hippolyte Girardot, Delphine Rollin, Clotilde De Bayser, Steve Suissa.

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