Starring: Diane Kruger, Dany Boon
Director: Pascal Chaumeil
Richard Curtis, there’s a bloke in France who wants your job. Yes, with its cosy Yuletide setting and a version of “Love Is In The Air” playing over the closing credits (which also come with a friendly blooper reel), this globe-trotting Gallic rom-com clearly has designs on being the French Love, Actually. But will British cinema-goers feel much you-know-what for it?
The story concerns a dentist named Isabelle (Diane Kruger) She’s in a long-term relationship with Pierre, another dentist, and wants to marry him so that they can have kids, but she’s daunted by the curse which sees all first marriages in her family fail. In an effort to dodge the fate of her parents and grandparents, she hatches a plan to get married to a complete stranger and divorced in record time so that she can make the second one count. For one reason or another, she settles on a boorish and uncouth Rough Guide writer named Jean-Yves (Dany Boon) to be the fall guy, and proceeds to stalk him all the way to Kenya in an effort to get to him to church. However, complications ensue and she’s soon spending more time with him than she bargained for.
With a tale-told-over-Christmas-dinner framing device not dissimilar to the one Woody Allen used in Broadway Danny Rose, A Perfect Plan is warm, undemanding and approachable, but it has its problems. These are mostly to do with Dany (Micmacs) Boon’s character, whose preening loquaciousness (lecturing Isabelle on how you can squeeze juice from elephant dung when they find themselves stranded in the African savannah, etc) belongs to an archaic French tradition of buffoonery that jars with the rest of the film and is unlikely to play well internationally. Nor can one imagine the target female audience buying with much enthusiasm into the film’s celebration of the quirky and eccentric (Jean-Yves’ plans to pen a children’s book and his spontaneous bouts of Russian dancing) over the worldly and conventional (Isabelle’s enviably lux Paris apartment and smart dental practice), which anyway rings a bit hollow in a movie where all the characters seem to be extremely comfortably off.
Still, with its wealth of glamorous locations (there’s a sequence in snowy Moscow too), A Perfect Plan at least gets marks for being more ambitious and wide-ranging than your usual frothy French comedy. There are some energetic slapstick set-pieces, including a funny bit where Isabelle gets Jean-Yves in her dentist’s chair and puts his mouth to sleep, and a standout moment where the two of them encounter a very convincing CGI lion. Taking a break from Hollywood, Diane Kruger fits into this Gallic milieu like a native and breezes through the film with élan. Meanwhile, Chaumeil’s ingratiating directorial style keeps you in your seat even during the movie’s more contrived moments. Pity – with a less stilted leading man, maybe it would have been love.