Alice (Alice Taglioni) is a Parisian pharmacist's daughter who has a fixation on Woody Allen and his films, with a huge portrait of him hanging in her bedroom - with which she tends to converse, seeking his wise counsel about life. She even hands out DVDs of his films to her customers as medicine for their ailments. Her parents (Michel Aumont, Marie-Christine Adam) have a sense of urgency for her to find a man, but none can match Woody Allen, not even the alarm specialist Victor (Patrick Bruel) who services the pharmacy. But there is one thing a man could do to impress her - introduce her to Woody Allen.
Review by Louise Keller:
The premise might be slight, but there's a sprinkling of magic in Sophie Lellouche's debut feature about a young woman obsessed by Woody Allen, as she traverses the bridges of her life, searching for the elusive pathway to happiness. In Lellouche's vision, Allen is the know-all guru, whose black and white poster takes pride of place on the wall of Alice's (Alice Taglioni) room, a young Parisienne with a particular view of the world.
She talks to him, hears the answers to her unspoken questions about the philosophies of life and relies on him (and his considerable library of films) to solve not only life's riddles, but her own personal ones. Struggling at the beginning, the film hits its stride as Alice meets her match in Victor (Patrick Bruel) and whose courtship is complicated by many layers of family-related matters. In short, family matters in this delightful and gently ambling romantic comedy in which discovery of self is the greatest revelation.
In the early scenes, Alice seeks reassurance from her mentor, who peers at her quizzically from the elevation of the wall, confirming that life is worth living - if only for Louis Armstrong and Swedish movies. And Cole Porter. But as the action moves from Alice's room to the real world, where her reality includes the busy pharmacy that she runs and the never-ending matchmaking in which her father (Michel Aumont) indulges, the truths that are revealed come from delicious situations in which we become embroiled.
It is at a party that Alice meets Victor, and although they do not begin their relationship traditionally, eyes meeting across a crowded room, he delivers a fundamental truth that Allen himself well might have delivered: 'We are all alone - nothing lasts except death.'
In running the pharmacy inherited from her father, Alice takes care of her customers by giving them copies of Woody Allen DVDs to resolve their various ailments. Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask is one of her favourites - especially the scene in which Allen shares a bed with a sheep. Even a would-be burglar is given a package of Allen DVDs in a scene that is one of the film's funniest, involving the alarm monitoring system that Victor has installed in the pharmacy utilising chloroform.
Another funny moment comes when Alice and Victor (in tandem with her father and mother and unbeknownst to each other) search in her sister Hélène's (Marine Delterme) house for proof her husband's (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing) infidelity. Their discoveries result in the unexpected.
Personal issues relating to each member of the family spanning three generations arise, with some comical and poignant results. But ultimately the story hones in on the relationship between Alice and Victor and how their love story finds a unique and apt connection - through Alice's obsession with Woody Allen.
The performances are all solid with that extra magic coming from Taglioni and Bruhl. There's a lively and lovely escalation to the finish line and it is not until the very end that the film's emotional punch is delivered. Needless to say, Paris is always at her best and there's a simple pleasure in taking this Paris Manhattan journey.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The cinematic equivalent of a lite & easy meal, Paris Manhattan is partly a celebration of Woody Allen, although obliquely; it isn't a biography or a filmography so much as a philosophy discourse, and a short one at that. For the most part, Woody Allen stares at Alice from a large poster in her room, and she hears his life advice - as do we.
Although a perfectly normal young French woman, ever since her sister Helene (Marine Delterme) stole a boyfriend in their youth, she has been unattached. When the occasional suitor turns up, it's never quite right or quite enough. And she's happy enough for her sister's continued happiness with Pierre (Louis-Do de Lencquesaing).
Sprinkled with the music of Cole Porter (including a bewitching Ella Fitzgerald track) the film was the festival favourite at its world premiere in the 2012 Alliance Française French Film Festival in Australia.
The film wouldn't be the success it has been without both the delectable, freshly effervescent Alice Taglioni or Patrick Bruel, the latter a masculine, unglamorous leading man with great charisma going for him.
Filmmaker Sophie Lellouche stretches the story out with droll dialogue about weird families - and that's all of them - and some semi-farcical scenes involving Alice, Victor and Alice's parents snooping on her sister when they suspect Pierre is cheating on her. What they discover is rather different - and somewhat shocking to them.
Lellouche also injects some ballast in the form of a dramatic revelation about Alice's mother Nicole (Marie-Christine Adam) which is well handled in a brief episode that doesn't derail the film's otherwise light-hearted tone, but adds the texture of real life.
The payoff for audiences is the film's anticipated but still satisfying resolution.
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CAST: Alice Taglioni, Patrick Bruel, Marine Delterme, Louis-Do de Lencquesaing, Michel Aumont, Marie-Christine Adam, Yannick Soulier, Woody Allen
PRODUCER: Philippe Rousselet
DIRECTOR: Sophie Lellouche
SCRIPT: Sophie Lellouche
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Laurent Machuel
EDITOR: Monica Coleman
MUSIC: Jean-Michel Bernard
RUNNING TIME: 77 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Palace
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 13, 2012
RIVERSIDE SCREEN PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 6 consecutive Tuesdays, starts February 17, 2015 at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.