Alluding to Woody Allen’s 1979 film in its title, “Paris-Manhattan”, by Sophie Lellouche, is a movie about a woman’s life long obsession with the films and personality of Woody Allen. She even has a life-size poster of Allen on her wall that she fancies herself having conversations with. Apparently, she clings to Allen’s often distressing, anxious banter as a way to understand the world, and more specifically, her perpetual husband-less existence. However, it isn’t really clear why she clings so tightly to him, except for the fact that he “opened the world” to her when she was 15.
Just Pretend It’s Believable
Alice, the main character, is completely charming, even though she is meant to represent the ugly duckling of the family. Every man she gets close to either runs away or is stolen by her sister. But if you manage to suspend disbelief about the undesirability of Alice, the movie does become quite enjoyable. The characters speak entirely in French (being in Paris) and the subtitles can be marginally distracting at points. However, the most redeeming part of the movie is its use of dramatic irony and physical humour that always seem to manage to transcend language.
Alice’s quirky family adds a lot to what could be a pretty tired plot. Girl meets boy. Girl writes boy off. Boy kisses girl. Girl is offended. Girl realizes that boy is the man for her all along. While it’s hard to deny the simplicity of the plot, the other characters manage to bring a fresh spin to the story. Ultimately, the movie ends up being more about family discoveries and secrets than anything else. Alice discovers she has been wearing rose coloured glasses when it comes to her family and that even Woody Allen didn’t prepare her for the truth about her own life.
Patrick Bruel, the actor that plays Alice’s romantic replacement for Woody Allen, is good but not great. At times it seems like he is just spewing off the words that Alice needs to hear to become a fully developed human being; they both lack a certain “real person” quality. They both just seem a little too pout-y and not at all neurotic enough to even be in a film that has Woody Allen as its backdrop. But alas, when the boy and girl are falling in love the Woody-Allenness doesn’t really matter. Which is perhaps exactly what Alice (and debatably the audience) needs.
Maybe If We Bring In Neuroticism Itself?
Thankfully, Allen does make an appearance at the end of the film, apparently when Alice doesn’t need him anymore. Allen’s appearance is fun if only because we get to see him, although I feel like his insertion could have been a bit more seamless. His entrance felt a bit like a big-name drop to cement the idea of the movie which, while entertaining, really didn’t connect all of the pieces. The ending was satisfying in that it sees Alice content, but a bit of the happy-go-lucky music outro could have been replaced by some Allen-esque philosophical chatter to really make the ending memorable.
All in all, “Paris-Manhattan” is an enjoyable movie to see on a Friday night. It is quite funny, well paced and a cool 90 minutes long. The main characters are interesting but are certainly no Diane Keaton/ Woody Allen pairing; they lack a random, honest, bizarre human quality that we’ve grown to expect from Allen related films. Don’t go in to this movie expecting the heart of a Woody Allen comedy; go in looking for a quirky rom-com and you won’t be disappointed.