Gene Saks's listless comedy, A FINE ROMANCE, is distinguishable for many reasons. It fails to evoke any laughs, wastes the talents of two fine performers and may be the first motion picture in history to make Paris look unattractive.
Cesareo Gramaldi (Marcello Mastroianni) arrives home to find out that his young wife has left him for another man. Across town, Pamela Piquet (Julie Andrews) discovers that her husband has also flown the coop and is bedding Cesareo's wife. The disgruntled duo meet in a restaurant to try and figure
out a solution to their mutual predicament; they both confess to wanting their spouses back. Cesareo, while missing his wife dearly, is nevertheless attracted to the staid Englishwoman, Pamela. Pamela views him as she does every Italian man--a leech in a nice suit. He begs her to go out to dinner
but she refuses.
A month later, she finds Cesareo sleeping in one of the beds at a hospice she helps run. He confesses to severe depression, his always legendary drinking having gotten even worse. Pamela is now determined to help him through this ordeal. They take a holiday together at a country spa hoping it will
get them both in a better state of mind. Cesareo puts on a good front, but he's really keeping fit by chasing a voluptuous instructor and sneaking booze into his room. Pamela has just about had it with his animalistic behavior. Cesareo, however, is falling in love with her.
Back in Paris, Pamela finally decides he isn't so bad and agrees to sleep with him. Last-minute jitters cause her to end up doing just that--sleep. They have grown quite fond over the past weeks, but it's apparent each is still pining for their respective mates. Before long their wishes are
granted. Pamela's husband returns home, as does Cesareo's wife. All seems back to normal, but the gods have intervened. Pamela and Cesareo exchange love letters and rendezvous at a nearby hotel to consummate their affair. They now have their spouses and their true loves.
A FINE ROMANCE is a fine disaster. Rarely has a film boasted so many glaring errors. The story, always headed for the predictable happy ending, is a jumble of unfunny, heavy-handed vignettes. Screenwriter Ronald Harwood, adapting from the play Tchin-Tchin by Francois Billetdoux, obviously felt it
didn't matter why the protagonists' spouses walked out. By ignoring the reasons he only added more ambiguity to a film which cries out for some definition. The only source of conflict seems to be, will the spouses come back? One should hope for their own sake that they don't. Staying as far away
from the screen as possible is the best advice here.
Flat scene follows flat scene, and it ultimately takes quite an imagination to figure out just what the two leads see in each other. There is also a subplot involving Pamela's yuppie son, which is too absurd to dissect. Technically the film is harshly overlit, washing out the actors' faces. The
wretched dialogue grows worse as the movie progresses. Holding up two glasses of liquor, Mastroianni observes, "I order two of everything. It's faster." That zinger may be the funniest line of the film, and it comes after an excruciatingly long opening scene. Never has the City of Lights had such
a bad rendering on celluloid.
The film's dearth of professionalism can only be attributed to director Gene Saks. Trying desperately to raise a laugh, and failing at every turn, Saks (a multiple Tony Award-winning director long associated with Neil Simon) betrays little flair for the filmic medium. He may have struck a deal
with the owners of the Eiffel Tower, though: the monument appears in at least a dozen separate scenes. There also appears to be a peculiar proliferation of Americans in Paris, as evinced by several waiters and bit players with decidedly Yankee accents.
Andrews tries her best in this silly role, but she is undone by anemic dialogue and unfiltered lighting. Mastroianni only looks tired. The chemistry between them is non-existent, but this too can be traced back to the abysmal screenplay. To add insult to injury, the film's moral suggests that
adultery is okay, even wonderful, between consenting partners. A perfect ending for such an egregious folly. (Sexual situations.
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Gene Saks's listless comedy, A FINE ROMANCE, is distinguishable for many reasons. It fails to evoke any laughs, wastes the talents of two fine performers and may be the first motion picture in history to make Paris look unattractive. Cesareo Gramaldi (Mar… (more)