The amorous neuroses of a French literary critic and writer are examined in tragicomic detail in “Love Lasts Three Years,” the semiautobiographical debut feature of Gallic multihyphenate Frederic Beigbeder. A clever take on the rookie scribe-helmer’s eponymous novel, pic traces the misadventures of a novelist who tries to hide the fact that he wrote the titular tract — which, written in a post-divorce funk, dismisses the possibility of true, everlasting love — from a potential conquest. Boffo January B.O. in Gaul bodes well for the pic’s international bow in the Berlin market.
Ingeniously adapting his own novel by making a film about the adverse effects a writer’s polemical work has on his lovelife, Beigbeder combines a snappy, American-style comedy rhythm with a decidedly French take on matters such as infidelity and romance.
Swiss-Slovenian thesp Gaspard Proust plays Beigbeder’s alter ego, Marc Marronier, a sad loser whose divorce from his pretty wife (model Elisa Sednaoui) leaves a sour taste that he channels into his unexpected bestseller, “Love Lasts Three Years.” The downward spiral from the couple’s whirlwind romance to their painful separation is effectively conveyed in a sleek opening montage that immediately establishes pic’s mock-tragic tone.
After his divorce and a comically botched suicide attempt, things start to look up when Marc crosses paths again with Alice (Louise Bourgoin), a stunner who happens to be married to Marc’s cousin (Nicolas Bedos) — not that that’s stopping Marc, who dismisses their non-blood relationship (“I was never big on family anyway”).
Bulk of the pic follows the unlikely duo as Marc tries to convince the married Alice they could be more than friends, while Alice vents her frustration over that new and absolutely terrible bestseller she’s just read. Male insecurity is one of recurring themes, with Beigbeder following in the footsteps of everyone from Woody Allen to Judd Apatow, which results in some winning comic scenes as well more uncomfortable instances of misogyny and misanthropy that run on for too long, such as in a wedding-speech sequence that has no clear dramatic payoff.
Screenplay by the helmer, Christophe Turpin and Gilles Verdiani also keeps most of the supporting characters in their well-defined matrices. Rapper-turned-thesp Joeystarr (“Polisse”) is nicely cast against type as one of Marc’s lighthearted guy friends, though the twist in his character’s storyline can be seen coming from a mile away.
Proust is perfect as Marronier, a maladroit, occasionally insufferable but clearly big-hearted softie. The same can’t quite be said of Bourgoin, a charmer whose broader acting style lacks the precision of her perfectly plucked eyebrows.
Technically, “Love Lasts Three Years” is imaginatively assembled, using the songs of Gallic crooner Michel Legrand at several intervals. Pic’s last shot, during a beach wedding, no doubt involved CGI but is nonetheless impressive and partially compensates for an otherwise conventional ending.