A lightweight but sometimes genuinely emotional makes full use of the almost universal love the world has for Audrey Tautou.
It has been over a decade since Amélie, and yet it still seems to define how the world views its beautiful star, Audrey Tautou. Not that she isn’t complicit in this perception. Of the dozen or so films she has made in the interim, over half of these have been romantic comedies, and more than half of those have been largely forgettable. When we last checked in with Tautou in Beautiful Lies, she remained the beautiful eye-candy that she was a decade ago in what will always remain her most famous of roles. Yet despite her “edgier” window dressing, she did little to escape the shadow of a role that has hung over her for the better part of that period. With Delicacy (La Délicatesse), Tautou continues her water-treading.
Nathalie (Tautou) is hopelessly in love with her husband, until he is unexpectedly killed. Mourning his loss, she buries herself in her work, not allowing herself to enjoy life at all. Shunning the advances of her sleazy boss (Bruno Todeschini), she spontaneously kisses her unattractive Swedish co-worker Markus (François Damiens). She thinks nothing of it, but it radically changes Markus’ outlook on life. Against the odds, the two begin to form a romantic relationship, baffling everyone around them.
David Foenkinos‘ 2009 novel of the same name is a beloved tome in its native France, where the novelist/screenwriter’s work has been a popular bestseller since its release. As such, this adaptation is expected to come with some sense of the familiar, but the standard plotting of the attractive younger women inexplicably drawn to the “ugly” and quirky guy is hardly original. Indeed, it would have made for a far more interesting turn if the roles had been reversed, but that film is another film entirely. Foenkinos’ directoral debut, which he shares with his brother Stéphane Foenkinos, is a quietly confident one, but it all too often falls back on the familiar.
Using the post-Amélie tweeness that seem to have afflicted every film now shot in the Gallic borders is not a barrier in and of itself. The brothers Foenkinos do a miraculous job of setting up a doomed romance at the start of the film, and a genuine sense of loss when Nathalie’s husband is removed from the scene. Following the sufficiently cinematic period of mourning, a typically preposterous set of events leads to new and incredulous love. Again, this is hardly unexpected in this most reliable of genres, but what becomes important are the events and behaviours set in motion after the inevitable is set in motion.
Very much a showcase for Tautou’s beauty and talents, she doesn’t get much of a chance to stretch her acting skills beyond the first act. Once she is snapped out of a convincing depression, it is François Damiens who begins to steal the scenes. Insights into his neuroses and inner fears border on Woody Allen territory, although these are largely used as a comic roadblock to the inevitable. Unexpectedly, the chemistry that develops between the two leads is a warm one, and makes the path of least resistance an even smoother ride.
Although there is a slightly cloying sweetness to Delicacy, including a Pez dispenser used as a shorthand for something of significance, but the relationship between Nathalie and Markus is filled with some well-earned laughs. Some of these are squarely at the expense of the Swedish, some of which will go over the tops of the heads of anybody who doesn’t share in the Franco-Swedish rivalry. Despite this, there is much to like in this fairly inoffensive cool breeze of a romantic comedy. If this is not an antidote to the more overbearing cousin of the Hollywood rom-com, it serves as a good placebo until one gets here.
Delicacy was released in Australia on 3 May 2012 from Transmission.