Wednesday, May 04, 2011

FILM REVIEW: Romantics Anonymous (@Tribeca Film Festival)

Jean-Pierre Améris wrote and directed this non-stop awkward laugh-fest, beautifully written, directed, and acted, from the meet-cute to the declaration of love. It's a French romantic comedy about two overly emotional people who suffer intense anxiety attacks that lead to severe sweating and spontaneous fainting whenever they touch or merely interact with another human being. They sound like unlikely candidates for falling in love, but after watching this film, you'll discover that love is actually what they're meant for—for every emotion they feel is increased exponentially.

When we are first introduced to the main characters, Jean-Rene and Angelique, we meet the people who help them blend into society and remain sane. Jean-Rene has a private therapist and Angelique has a support group. It was clever how Améris added these supporting characters to drive the story along, having the therapist assign Jean-Rene tasks that would help him open up, and reserving the support group as a confessional for Angelique's otherwise indiscernible feelings. My favorite assignment was when he was told to "touch one person." He spent several excruciating minutes trying to touch his employees on the shoulder, channeling Mr. Bean in the process. I also enjoyed any group session where a member was driven to tears after just introducing themself or simply fainting before they did. The physical comedy was perfectly balanced with the wordplay. And with every escalating step in their relationship, he got more physically campy and she got more accidentally humorous with her deadpan deliveries.
They were an unorthodox pair even before they met, both being chocolate connoisseurs, he the owner of a candy manufacturer, and she a secretly famous gourmet chocolate chef. How does one run a business or promote their goods if they're afraid of life? And more importantly, how does one fall in love? The techniques that helped them answer that question is what made the film so funny, from Jean-Rene's constant shirt switching during their first date to their misguided walk in the pouring rain in an attempt to avoid sleeping in the same bed after swearing off office romances.

In the end, the audience is left realizing that, although they might not be quite so terrified of the world, they do understand what can be so frightening about falling in love. And they learn that it's a little less frightening when you find your match and rewrite the rules of romance.

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