January 12, 2008 -- This is a light, frothy and intoxicating French romantic comedy that was a welcome relief from the rigors of watching a bunch of documentaries and other serious movies about dark and desperate problems. Instead of bemoaning the worst of humanity, this film celebrates some of the better traits of humanity, like kindness, generosity and most of all, the capacity for love. This kind of movie usually doesn't get much respect from critics because it isn't considered serious enough. Drama is overrated. It is a lot tougher to make a good romantic comedy than it is to make a good drama. When is the last time a romantic comedy received a lot of those coveted year-end awards from major critics organizations? It's pretty rare. What does that say about critics? This year, dark dramas like No Country for Old Men won the bulk of the awards. Give me Avenue Montaigne any day of the week over that horror movie with a weak ending.
The film consists of several interlocking stories about various people who come together on Paris' upscale Avenue Montaigne. The threads of these various stories are tied together by the charming Jessica (played by Cécile de France) who strolls in from the provinces and gets a job at the Café des Arts, where she meets all the other characters. Among them are an unhappy concert pianist Jean-Francois Lefort (Albert Dupontel) and his wife, Valentine (Laura Morante), a wealthy old man, Jacques Grunberg (Claude Brasseur) and his unhappy son, a professor (Christopher Thomson). The old man's young wife is his son's former lover. There is also a charming aging theater concierge, Claudie (Dani), an unhappy soap star, Catherine Versen (Valérie Lemercier) and a famous American director, Brian Sobinski (played by director/actor Sydney Pollack).
All these people with their own problems clash together and set off sparks, and interesting consequences. The intertwined stories are not altogether lightweight, but none of them result in tragedy. The film shows a keen eye for human follies in life and love, a fondness for the theater, and like any good romantic comedy, it holds out the hope for love. The film celebrates the comradeship among those who love the arts, particularly the theater, and how they support each other. It celebrates the wisdom, kindness and generosity of Claudie as she makes room for people who need a place to stay in the ultra-rich district. Cécile de France floats effortlessly through this mix of stories. She is both beautiful and charming. She reminds me a bit of a similar character with childlike innocence and charm played by Audrey Tautou in “Amélíe.” This is a funny, touching and entertaining movie about life and love. It rates a B.
Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.