×

Romantics Anonymous

A professional interest in chocolate lubricates the difficult first steps for two romantics suffering from social anxiety disorder.

With:
With: Benoit Poelvoorde, Isabelle Carre, Lorella Cravotta, Lise Lametrie, Swann Arlaud, Pierre Niney, Stephan Wojtowicz, Claude Aufaure. (French dialogue)

A professional interest in chocolate lubricates the difficult first steps for two romantics suffering from social anxiety disorder in “Romantics Anonymous,” a delicious comedy-romance with a sweet-toothed twist from Gallic director Jean-Pierre Ameris (“Lightweight”). Helmer not only uses his honest take on the protags’ serious affliction as an obvious source of humor but also gently subverts the genre’s basic template, as the biggest obstacle the leads need to overcome lies within themselves rather than in any plot contrivance. Late December release clicked with local auds and has remake potential and Francophile niche appeal.

Pic reteams Belgium’s favorite sad clown, Benoit Poelvoorde (“Coco Before Chanel”), and French thesp Isabelle Carre (“Hideaway”), who earlier worked together on helmer Anne Fontaine’s more straightforward drama “In His Hands.” Here, the duo sparkles in more comic mode, though both roles are again fully inhabited, with helmer Ameris — who, per press notes, himself suffers from panic attacks when social interaction is required — paying particular attention to the thesps’ eyes and body language.

Angelic Angelique Delange (Carre) is a good-natured chocolate maker who’s extremely gifted but too shy to take credit for her work. Through a stroke of luck, she finds a job, but because of her fear of appraisal or — worse! — dismissal, she makes her confections at home and pretends to the outside world she’s just a delivery girl for a gifted chocolate-making hermit. But after the death of the chocolaterie’s owner (Claude Aufaure), the only one in the know about her gifts, she’s out of a job — and it ain’t easy for hermits to enter the job market.

Enter Jean-Rene Van Den Hugde (Poelvoorde), who runs a small chocolate factory that’s on the verge of bankruptcy. He needs to hire a new salesperson to sell his sweets, or close up shop. When Angelique and Jean-Rene’s paths cross, neither suspects the other suffers from the same anxiety attacks every time they need to converse. Angelique is always ready to retreat, while Jean-Rene sweats so profusely he never goes anywhere without a change of freshly ironed shirts.

Each of these emotionally fragile chocolate lovers has a support team that not only fills out the usual romantic-comedy best-friend roles but also allows them to reveal more about their illness (and provides opportunity for humor). Angelique attends group therapy for people affected by the same disorder (hence the original title, which roughly translates as “The Emotionally Challenged Anonymous”), while Jean-Rene sees a shrink (Stephan Wojtowicz) who sets a new task or goal each week (“Invite someone out for dinner,” “Touch someone”).

The clever and consistently witty script, authored by Ameris and Belgian scribe Philippe Blasband (“Irina Palm”), keeps the focus on the human relationships rather than the food. The shots of the chocolate confections made, consumed and sold are more functional than sensual here; Lasse Hallstrom’s “Chocolat” this is not. Strong thesping further consolidates the impression that this is a film about real people with not only real problems, but also a real desire to be together.

Unobtrusive widescreen lensing is serviceable, while Pierre Adenot’s score adds a touch of fairy tale-like lightness. Both thesps also get to sing a song, though only Poelvoorde’s number is cleverly integrated into the story.

More Reviews

  • Nona

    Film Review: 'Nona'

    Twenty years and 12 features down the line, it’s still hard to peg the directorial sensibility of Michael Polish, with or without the presence of brother Mark as frequent co-writer and actor. His output has been all over the place, from early Lynchian quirkfests to the very middle-of-the-road inspirational dramedy “The Astronaut Farmer,” not to [...]

  • 'Winter's Night' Review: Enigmatic, Offbeat Korean

    Tallinn Film Review: 'Winter's Night'

    There are thousands of films about love’s beginning, and a great many about love’s end. But far fewer deal with a relationship’s late-middle: the spreading, sluggish delta of coupledom when decades of familiarity, if they have not bred contempt, at least threaten irritation. “Winter’s Night,” Jang Woo-jin’s playfully melancholic third feature, after the acclaimed “A [...]

  • Vanity Fair Review

    TV Review: 'Vanity Fair'

    There’s something comforting about the predictability of a period piece novel adaptation in the Masterpiece Theater tradition. Knowing the story, or even just the rhythms of the genre, there are rarely many surprises. The women will toss off witticisms and cry careful, pretty tears; the men will steel their jaws and declare their love, ideally [...]

  • Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki

    Film Review: 'Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki'

    Hayao Miyazaki has threatened to quit before, so you can’t blame the “Spirited Away” director’s fans for being just a wee bit skeptical when Miyazaki announced in September 2013 that “The Wind Rises” would be his final feature. “But… this time… I mean it,” he insisted at a crowded press conference, unable to keep a [...]

  • Backtrace Review

    Film Review: 'Backtrace'

    “You can’t kill me! I died seven years ago!” It’s very much to the credit of Matthew Modine that he persuasively sells this melodramatic scrap of dialogue, and every other aspect of his trickily written lead character, in “Backtrace,” a better-than-average VOD-centric thriller that likely wouldn’t work nearly so well without the veteran actor’s totally [...]

  • To Kill a Mockingbird review

    Broadway Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

    Against all odds, writer Aaron Sorkin and director Bartlett Sher have succeeded in crafting a stage-worthy adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The ever-likable Daniels, whose casting was genius, gives a strong and searching performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town Southern lawyer who epitomizes the ideal human qualities of goodness, [...]

  • 'Dead Women Walking' Review: Uncompromising, Powerful

    Film Review: 'Dead Women Walking'

    The sober and gripping “Dead Women Walking” focuses on the final days of a series of female inmates facing the death sentence. Divided into nine chapters, each inching its way inexorably closer to the moment of execution, the drama turns the fragmentation of its approach to a powerful advantage. Not only do the individual stories [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content