Avenue Montaigne is a French soufflé of the old school, a romantic comedy set in Paris' arty district, where neurotic writers and actors wring their manicured hands. For my money, charm comes altogether too easily to the French, and Gallic whimsy only serves to prop up infantile Anglo fantasies about the ceaseless glamour of la vie Parisienne. Still, I make an exception for Danièle Thompson, whose warmly irreverent fluff comes enlivened by her earthy refusal to take the cult of the artist at face value. Here, a television soap actress (Valérie Lemercier) obsesses about landing a movie role, while a concert pianist (Albert Dupontel), exhausted by his punishing tour schedule, slips away to play to children with cancer and bumps into an old acquaintance, Jacques (Claude Brasseur), a cabbie-turned-art-collector who's putting his multimillion-dollar collection up for auction. Jacques' uncooperative son is played by Christopher Thompson, son of the director, who collaborated with her on the script. The Thompsons clearly know and love this neurotic milieu, but their sensibility is resolutely (and commercially) populist, and in short order a newly arrived country bumpkin (played by Cécile de France) is turned loose among these broody narcissists to act as both ministering angel and brisk reality check. Avenue Montaigne doesn't pretend to be deep, but given the tendency of current cinema to milk our glum mood for all it's worth, I say we could use the break.
Reality checker de France.
Opens at Harvard Exit, Fri., March 23. Not rated. 106 minutes.