Saturday, 14 April 2012
FILM REVIEW: ROMANTICS ANONYMOUS
My name is Dwayne, and I'm a chocoholic. From an early age I have loved the sweet nectar produced by the cocoa bean and I'm not at all discriminating (I'm a writer, after all, so the "good stuff" i.e. expensive, is usually beyond my means). One year, my new year's resolution was to give up chocolate: I think I lasted until midday January 1.
I'm also a bit of a sweet tooth -- surprise! -- but even I couldn't stomach the chocolatey, treacly sweetness that is Romantics Anonymous, Jean-Pierre Ameris' rom-com where the ingredients of whimsy, quirky and the often absurd -- and each in great dollops -- do not make for a winning recipe.
Some unimaginative quote whore's line that it's 'Amelie meets Chocolat' has been used to promote the film, and that may get the punters in but be warned: Romantics Anonymous has none of the magic of Jean Pierre Jeunet's Amelie (2001). And while I've not seen Lasse Hallstrom's Chocolat (2000), reading the novel almost gave me diabetes; Ameris' film on the other hand -- and to put it euphemistically -- gave me the runs.
Set in a Lyon chocolate factory, Romantics Anonymous sees Angelique Delange (Isabelle Carre) come to work at the long established business as a chocolatier but is mistakenly hired as a sales rep. A job's a job in this economic climate, but not when you're not very good with people and stressful situations, like Angelique; she has a tendency to faint when the pressure's on.
That's why she attends an Emotional Anonymous support group (and yes, that's a real thing!), something her new employer, Jean-Rene Van Den Hudge (Benoit Poelvoorde) should probably look into.
Jean-Rene is already in therapy for his own hang-ups, which mostly involves intimate interactions with people. He sweats up a storm at the possibility of human contact and as result has never had a relationship. "I love women," he tells his therapist. "But I'm terrified of them".
Spoiler Alert: these two quirky lost souls are destined for each other. But not before Angelique has to overcome her own fears and save the chocolate factory from going under; posing as the go-between for a non-existent hermit chocolatier whose new line of treats will win awards and, ultimately, hearts.
But not mine. For me, Romantics Anoynmous is one of those rare breed of foreign films: the kind that could only be improved upon by a Hollywood remake. Honestly, it couldn't be any worse; it might even make sense.
Indeed, if this was a Hollywood rom-com plenty of critics would only be too ready to tear into it like kids do their chocolate eggs on Easter morning. But add some subtitles and some Gallic charm, and we're supposed to be more forgiving.
Forget that. Romantics Anonymous left me feeling sickly, and not in a good post-chocolate overdose kind of way.