Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh

A huge hit in France, this ensemble drama revolves around two very different social groups whose encounters with each other change several lives in surprising ways. Self-made, Rouen businessman Castella (Jean-Pierre Bacri) is working on an important deal, which his college-educated partner (Xavier de Guillebon) thinks might go more smoothly if Castella were to improve his English. Castella hires a tutor, Clare (Anne Alvaro), but he's no more interested in studying than he is in seeing the play his wife Angelique (Christinae Millet) insists they attend. Imagine Castella's surprise when he finds himself enthralled by Racine's Berenice and overwhelmed by the star, who turns out to be none other than his English tutor. Middle-aged, plain, and intensely snobbish in a particularly bohemian way, Clara is an unlikely object of romantic obsession. But Castella pursues her relentlessly, attending cultural events and insinuating himself into her circle of friends; they all think he's a boor and a philistine, condescending to him even as they're letting him pay for dinner. Meanwhile, Clara's friend Manie (Agnes Jaoui), a bartender and sometime hash dealer, takes up first with Castelli's chauffeur, Bruno (Alain Chabat), then with his bodyguard (Gerard Lanvin), a former cop who affects an air of Belmondo-esque cynicism. The film's title suggests the words of 18th-century German poet Friedrich Klopstock — "He who has an opinion of his own, but depends upon the opinion and taste of others, is a slave" — and its characters begin to shake off their doldrums when they find their own tastes. Castella discovers he actually likes art and doesn't much care for his wife (who, frankly, is more attached to her snappish dog, Flucky); Clare's friend Valerie (Anne Le Ny), a costume designer, finds love with Manie's boss, a bar owner; Bruno takes up the flute. The film marks the directing debut of screenwriter Jaoui, who also wrote the screenplay with her longtime partner (personally and professionally) Bacri.