Synopsis: Idealistic pharmacist Alice (the adorable Alice Taglioni – The Valet; Sky Fighters) is totally obsessed with the movies of Woody Allen. She continually quotes lines from his films, engages in imaginary conversation, and even prescribes her customers his classic works to help alleviate their ailments; it’s little wonder she’s still single in her thirties! Alice’s increasingly concerned Jewish parents hope to cure her fixation by setting her up with a handsome French gentleman (Patrick Bruel – Change of plans; A Secret), but even he quickly realises that he’s no match for the man of her dreams…
eyelights: Woody Allen. the unusual outlooks of the two leads.
eyesores: the gaping plot holes. the contrived ending.
Victor: “Your dreams are banal. Reality offers better than that.”
‘Paris-Manhattan’ is a French romantic comedy by first-time writer-director Sophie Lellouche. In the course of just under 80 minutes, it follows the life of pharmacist Alice, who is a devoted fan of Woody Allen, using his films and sense of humour as an anchor. Despite her tense relations with her sister and her dissatisfaction with her love life, she is persistently happy – and gives credit to Woody Allen for this.
The picture’s focus is on her familial relationships and the budding friendship with Victor, an alarm company entrepreneur. For years, her family has set her up with various men, in the hope that she would find the right one – in vain. She hasn’t lost hope, but she wishes that her father, in particular, would give it a rest. Then she is introduced to the man of her dreams, leaving no room for Victor.
I loved that Alice has entire dialogues with Woody Allen, much like he did with Humphrey Bogart in ‘Play it Again, Sam‘. I’m not sure if it was archival material that was reused or if Allen re-recorded those dialogues for ‘Paris-Manhattan’, but some of the passages were clearly taken from his films. Either way, I loved that touch because he has particular views and they helped to inform the protagonist’s choices.
It would seem unusual for someone who is enamored with Woody Allen to be buoyant about life, and for a moment I was incredulous about that aspect of the film – until I realized that one of the first people I knew who was a fan of his work was a girl very much like Alice, who was bubbly and lovely… and yet totally enamoured with Allen. So it is actually quite possible despite his anxious, oft-nihilistic views.
I really enjoyed that, when she inherited her father’s business, she decided to bring in her Woody Allen DVDs and started prescribing them to some of her customers. It showed a generosity I wouldn’t be able to muster, but also a deep passion and belief in the power of those films. That was kind of fun to me. And it worked, too: some patients were healed by laughter. She prescribed carefully, picking the right DVDs.
Amazingly enough, the film was made not only with Woody Allen’s approval, but with his participation too. I already wondered how they had managed to infuse the picture with so many Woody Allen references (what with copyright being what it is), but Allen had a delightful cameo, in which he simply offers advice to Patrick Bruel and a passing comment to Alice. It was a totally contrived meeting, but I enjoyed it nonetheless.
I just wish that the credits would have been produced more in the Woody Allen genre, because it’s such a simple way to connect the two. Some might think that doing this would be overkill, but I think that it’s a lost opportunity. I mean, if you’re going to use Allen as a plot device, you might as well go all the way and turn the film into a proper homage. Alas, it was not to be. Maybe for Lellouche’s next picture. (Kidding.)
One non-Allen related aspect of ‘Paris-Manhattan’ that I enjoyed was that Victor was able to read people relatively well – this is frequently a female trait in films, not a male one. Having said this, I’m glad that all of the potentially dramatic secrets that the family members had actually went in totally different directions; Victor wasn’t entirely right, and we were lead astray on purpose.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
But the characters’ behaviours weren’t expanded upon properly. In fact, the script is a bit thin in this regard:
But, worst of all, is Alice’s relationship with Vincent, who pops onto the scene out of nowhere, with barely any forewarning, and then disappears without a word. Making matters worse is the fact that Alice is completely in love with him but, suddenly, out of nowhere, she decides to fall for Victor – even though she’d been giving him a hard time all along. What suddenly made her not in love her perfect match, Vincent, and go for the guy she barely tolerated?
Such inexplicable behaviour is exactly why I’m rating this picture as low as I am. Otherwise, I’d give it a half point extra.
*MAJOR spoiler alert*
The fact is that, in the end, I found ‘Paris-Manhattan’ a pleasant watch. I enjoyed the interactions and the characters’ quirks. And it was fun to see a character whose life is greatly influenced by Woody Allen in the way that she is, and who likes to spread that fondness around to her customers and strangers. That was an enjoyable touch.
Of course, I’m a huge Woody Allen fan, so I’m rather biased. I suspect that someone who isn’t might find the film incomprehensible and perhaps meaningless – so, for most people, I’d imagine it to be a 6.5. As for me, even if it wasn’t Woody Allen, if it were a different director/celebrity, I would likely enjoy that aspect of the film – much like I enjoy Woody Allen’s own idolatry in his films, even I don’t always get the references.
Hey, ‘Paris-Manhattan’ may not be a perfect motion picture, but it’s a decent first effort. I will no doubt revisit it from time to time.
Date of veiwing: March 8, 2014