Love Me If You Dare

It may be a simple matter of cultural dissonance, or perhaps something was lost in translation. But it's hard to see why this obnoxious romantic comedy about the lifelong relationship between two mischievous adults locked in an ongoing game of "Dares" was such a huge hit in its native France. The game starts when eight-year-old Julien Janvier's (Thibault...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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It may be a simple matter of cultural dissonance, or perhaps something was lost in translation. But it's hard to see why this obnoxious romantic comedy about the lifelong relationship between two mischievous adults locked in an ongoing game of "Dares" was such a huge hit in its native France. The game starts when eight-year-old Julien Janvier's (Thibault Verhaeghe) terminally ill mother (Emmanuelle Gronvold) gives him a small round tin decorated with a carousel motif. When Julien shows his prized possession to his new friend, Sophie (Josephine Lebas Joly), a spunky little outcast whose parents are poor Polish immigrants, she devises a contest by which they take turns challenging each other to perform some outrageous stunt. The tin is handed over with the dare and once the deed is done, the carousel is passed back with a fresh challenge. Sometimes Julien or Sophie will seize the moment on his or her own — like the time Sophie upped the ante by urinating on the floor of the principal's office — but as they grow older the game becomes a means by which Julien (Guilliame Canet) and Sophie (Marion Cotillard) test how far each is willing to go for the other. Sophie decides early that they're much better off staying friends, but it's a resolution that becomes increasingly hard to uphold as years roll by and the game's stakes grow ever higher. With more optical effects than a Matrix sequel, the film looks and feels like a throwback to the so-called cinema du look of the 1980s, a minor movement whose directors — Luc Besson, Leos Carax and Jean-Jacques Beineix chief among them — made visually dazzling films that left many critics complaining that these flashy young Turks prized style far above substance. First-time feature director Yann Samuell plays his own escalating game of "Dares" with his audience, indulging in animated interludes and flights of theatrical fancy that don't seem to have a whole lot to do with anything, and leaves himself wide open to the same criticism. What substance there is doesn't lend itself to being enjoyed as a comedy. Julien and Sophie are both so oblivious to the harm they cause everyone around them — over the years their antics ruin two weddings and a funeral — that by the time Julien's cranky father (Gerard Watkins) dramatically washes his hands of his son it's hard not to stand up and applaud the old man's good sense. Contrary to rumor, Yann Samuell is not a pseudonym for Jean-Pierre Jeunet (AMELIE), despite a certain similarity of style. (In French, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: R
  • Review: It may be a simple matter of cultural dissonance, or perhaps something was lost in translation. But it's hard to see why this obnoxious romantic comedy about the lifelong relationship between two mischievous adults locked in an ongoing game of "Dares" was… (more)

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