All-American Boy

The Château welcomes Paul Rudd into his own.


directed by Jesse Peretz

with Paul Rudd and Romany Malco

opens Sept. 6 at Metro

Paul Rudd has suffered the curse of being cute. New York stages have figured out how to manipulate his bright-eyed Midwestern appeal, but Hollywood always takes one look at his milky-white boyishness and sticks him opposite the girl-of-the-week (Jennifer Aniston in The Object of My Affection, Alicia Silverstone in Clueless, Courtney Love in 200 Cigarettes). The Chⴥau is the first film to find the distress beneath Rudd's beaming demeanor.

Rudd plays Graham, the woebegone half of a pair of siblings and a soul so naive that his jaded, adopted black brother, Allen (Romany Malco), rumbles, "You're a grown fucking man; I don't know how you survive." Informed of a surprise inheritance, the American brothers head off to sell their new French estate. There, unfortunately, Graham becomes enamored with the supposedly ancient, innocent purity of the Gallic people. He also tries to woo the manor's waifish young maid (Sylvie Testud, movingly reserved) by talking up The Celestine Prophecy.

Rudd plays all this with a cutting but gentle touch, throwing himself fearlessly into Graham's predestined humiliation. The obvious bits—Graham's hysterically earnest slaughtering of the French language and nightly calls to his therapist—come off wincingly human; he's a Woody Allen-ish goof without the shtick.

There isn't a phony note among the cast, although the improv-friendly DV format can be both beneficial and detrimental. It helps to underplay the farce but makes the relatively airy commentary on mutual Franco-American ignorance seem awfully arty. But director Jesse Peretz finds treasures of nuance in every corner. That he's uncovered the depths of Rudd's charm is The Chⴥau's real reward.

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