Yvan Attal's modern-day comedy of manners follows three Parisian friends, all rapidly approaching middle age, trying to reconcile fairy-tale fantasies of endless love with the less-than-magical reality of keeping relationships alive all the while managing the pressures of work, children and the nagging suspicion that the shine is off life's bright promise. Footloose car salesman Fred (Alain Cohen) claims to envy the comfort and security of married life, but his relentless horndogging leaves little time for finding someone with whom to settle down. Discontented hotel manager Georges (Alain Chabat) loves his small son (Ruben Marx), but he and his wife, Nathalie (Emmanuelle Seigner) whose strident, combative commitment to sexual equality is pitched to stoke the reactionary fears of radical "feminazi" haters are at each other's throats morning, noon and night. Georges dreams of having an affair, but fear of Nathalie's wrath keeps him on the straight and narrow and he lusts for a new car instead. Fred's coworker, Vincent (writer-director Yvan Attal), seems to have struck the best compromise: He and realtor Gabrielle (Charlotte Gainsbourg, Attal's longtime companion), who also have a little boy (Ben Attal), have nurtured a spark of playfulness that helps get them through the inevitable rough patches. But unbeknownst to his friends, Vincent has a mistress (Angie David) and Gabrielle, who knows as much on some atavistic level she refuses to acknowledge, fantasizes about a fling with the handsome stranger (Johnny Depp) she saw briefly at a record-store listening station. Attal's follow-up to MY WIFE IS AN ACTRESS (2001), in which he and Gainsbourg also play a couple, rehashes similar thematic material: The insidious insecurities that undermine trust; the way media-made expectations lead couples to question their own feelings; the allure of fantasy in the face of shabby reality and the confusing cat's cradle of family ties that bind. Attal brings a certain wit to the casting process, allowing his relationship with Gainsbourg to color Vincent and Gabrielle's marriage, recruiting director Claude Berri and '60s icon Anouk Aimee to play his parents and bringing in non-actor Alain Cohen, Berri's on-screen alter ego in the semiautobiographical THE TWO OF US (1967) and THE FIRST TIME (1976). But Attal's characters are one-note position statements, which forces the unsubtle soundtrack mostly American pop songs that range from the Velvet Underground's "Sunday Morning" to Radiohead's "Creep" to bear the brunt of clarifying their thoughts and feelings. Without it, you'd be entirely in the dark. (In subtitles French and English)
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