Purveyor of quality fluff Cédric Klapisch opens his new film with 10-15 minutes of E-Z listening cinema, lightly touching on character predicaments and quirks in a widescreen City of Lights. There’s a cabaret dancer (Romain Duris) who learns he’s terminally ill, his frumpy supportive-aggressive sister (Juliette Binoche, acting with her hair again), an antsy prof (permanently surprised-looking Fabrice Luchini) who chases a pretty student (Mélanie Laurent) after his father dies, a couple of flirtatious fishmongers, plus assorted loose ends. It’s amusing enough, until boredom, then dread, then incredulity set in as we realize we must now spend two poorly written, pasted-together hours in their company. Throw in laughable periodic cutaways to woebegone Cameroonians (in Cameroon) and c’est Paris.
In previous films, with a younger cast, Klapisch was rather more successful at sustaining such movie-long Eurodiversions; perhaps this mix should have been tossed off by the Avenue Montaigne team instead. There comes a point in the breeziness—perhaps a late-night visit to a meat warehouse—when the loosely weaving storylines and cross-pollinated rendezvous feel so inconsequentially drawn as to seem free-associative (when they’re not lazily obvious). Early on, Luchini’s academic sells out by hosting a hokey program about Paris’s picturesque and engaging heritage, but the inclusion of this possibly self-mocking joke only underlines the flabby schlock the film serves up.