Jean-Rene (Benoît Poelvoorde) runs a chocolate factory and Angelique (Isabelle Carré) is a talented chocolate maker. They are both emotionally challenged yet drawn together through a shared passion for chocolate. Jean-Rene and Angelique fall in love, but neither is able to express how they feel. Their crippling shyness is driving them apart.
Review by Louise Keller:
As sweet as chocolate that's spiced with bitterness of varying degrees, this whimsical charmer about two eccentrics weighed down by anxiety, is a delight. Filmmaker Jean-Pierre Améris's film relies on well-rounded characterisations that are beautifully portrayed by Benoît Poelvoorde and Isabelle Carré, who play the owner of a near-bankrupt chocolate factory and the shy chocolate maker who works for him. The success of the film lies in the total commitment and affection that Améris has for his characters who are never the subject of fun or derision but earn our affection through their actions and reactions. This is a film whose unusual tone and mood rubs off on us, like melted chocolate on sticky fingers.
The two central characters are just plain kooky. Jean-René Van Den Hugde (Poelvoorde) has daily visits to his therapist where he confides his many anxieties. Terrified of everything, in his frequent hot and sweaty moments, he changes shirts as others might chain smoke. Angélique Delange (Carré) is equally complex and in the film's opening sequences, we see her singing I Have Confidence (from Sound of Music), in a bid to propel her through her day. The song (with French lyrics) is obviously her mantra; she even emulates the double heel beat that Julie Andrews delivers in the film. Her solace is in the group therapy which she frequents, where other anxiety addicts share their stories.
Angélique, a talented chocolate maker, is too shy to take the credit for her own work, and has been making her award-winning chocolates behind closed doors and is known not by name but as a mysterious hermit. It is when her employer dies that Angélique takes a job at The Chocolate Mill, without realising it is actually a sales rep that Jean-René is looking for. That is the beginning of the tale of two chocolate enthusiasts who are as anxious and hung up as each other.
There are plenty of amusing moments like the sequence in which Jean-René asks Angélique out for dinner (under instruction from his shrink) but keeps disappearing into the toilets to change from one shirt into the next, as his date waits anxiously at the table. The scene in which they check into a hotel to attend the chocolate convention at which the best chocolate maker and discover only one room is available, offers some chuckles as both characters struggle to fight their demons to discover joint confection heaven. It's lightweight entertainment, but sweetly so.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
A lighthearted confection, as sweet as milk chocolate, Romantic Anonymous is an incidental pleasure for those in a frivolous mood. Isabelle Carré is Angelique, the fumbling protagonist whose shy nature hides a world class chocolate maker. Her fear of life is matched by the chocolate factory boss, Jean-Rene (Benoît Poelvoorde), and they are destined to connect - but not just yet.
The chocolate factory is making old fashioned goods and is about to go bankrupt; it has only four employees left, and Angelique is hired as a sales rep, although she was expecting something else, having had a lifetime of chocolate making. Poelvoorde is unconvincing as the over-shy Jean-Renee, but he has some fun scenes.
There is none of the overt sensuality of Lasse Hallstrom's Chocolat, nor the depth of characterisation.
The premise is built on the reluctance of both the boy and the girl (the boy is really an insecure man) to stretch out and embrace life and all who sail in her. He goes to a shrink, she attends Romantics Anonymous, where everyone confesses to being 'emotional' but only inwardly.
The tone is unashamedly sentimental, and the performances are too often played for laughs, so the film ends up feeling rather thin and inconsequential. It's a pity because chocolate is a wonderful metaphor for life; Angelique even explains how chocolate must have a certain bitterness to be really great. So must life, so must film.
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ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS (M)
CAST: Benoît Poelvoorde, Isabelle Carre, Lorella Cravotta, Lise Lametrie, Swann Arlaud, Pierre Niney
PRODUCER: Nathalie Gastaldo, Philippe Godeau
DIRECTOR: Jean-Pierre Ameris
SCRIPT: Jean-Pierre Ameris, Philippe Blasband
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Gerard Simon
EDITOR: Philippe Bourgueil
MUSIC: Pierre Adenot
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Sylvie Olive
RUNNING TIME: 80 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Madman
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 5, 2012