1 disc (Distributor: Studio Canal) Running Time: 109 minutes
Nathalie (Audrey Tautou) is happy in life in her middle management job and trying for a child with her husband and soul mate François (Pio Marmaï) until he is killed in a car accident. Consumed with grief, confusion and loneliness, Nathalie throws herself into her work. After a three year period of self absorption, Nathalie one day kisses gawky Swedish co-worker Markus (François Damiens) completely out of the blue, as surprised at her actions as he is. They gradually get over this embarrassing moment and begin a very awkward relationship to the surprise of everyone and the chagrin of the company boss Charles (Bruno Todeschini), who has been trying unsuccessfully wooing Nathalie for himself.
Audrey Tautou has been one of the more interesting cases to follow since her career making role in 2001’s Amelie. She followed this up with a string of solid if often unspectacular roles in rom coms and dramas before crossing over to Hollywood for greater international recognition The Da Vinci Code in 2006. Since then however, aside from 2009’s bio pic Coco Before Chanel, Tatou has returned to the lightweight rom com territory with mixed results. Delicacy does little to change that.
Debuting director brothers David and Stéphane Foenkinos bring the novel of the former to the big screen, presumably hoping that Tautou’s charm and name will carry the film and while this may prove to be true, opinion is divide on whether this was a successful project. Since it pretty much follows the rom com template for much of the plot, it takes a few little detours to include a take on the snobbery of such diverse opposites attracting one another. A sense of humour is also present but used sparingly since showing Tautou crying and walking around like an uptight zombie is seen to be a higher priority. At least when the humour arrives it is quite amusing.
The film starts with the meeting of Nathalie and François in a café followed by a cute inventive little segue way to their marriage before the pressures of interfering friends and family make their presence felt which is shut down in one of the more amusing scenes. François is killed off screen a few minuets later and Nathalie’s grieving period begins. Admittedly Tautou is marvellous in these scenes wandering a fine line between deprived of her love and mortally destroyed without resorting to hysterics or exaggeration, for once her wide eyed visage proving to be more than providing elfin like cuteness. Along with Tautou’s measured essaying these scene aren’t overplayed allowing the emotion to resonate on its own.
After Charles’s heavy handed attempt to woo Nathalie, even trying the “my wife doesn’t understand me” routine, Markus literally walks into Nathalie’s office where without warning and seemingly without any cognisance she plants a massive smacker on him then sends him away. For this older, balder, bearded Swedish antithesis of Nathalie’s svelte Gallic chic and beauty, all his Christmases, New Years Eves, birthdays, Easters, Valentine’s days, bar mitzvahs, Mardi Gras, July 4th and O-Bon have all come at once, but she has no recollection of this or indeed any desire to follow through with her kiss. Typically though they do begin to get closer which annoys Charles and sets the tongues of the gossips wagging and earns the disapproval of Nathalie’s high flying friends, believing this gangling Swede is playing out of his league.
Whereas this element of the plot could have made this a stronger drama, the fluffy rom com conventions pervasive in every other rom com win over and the film remains sailing in safe waters. The original novel by David Foenkinos was apparently a big seller in France which makes one wonder if Proust is turning in his grave about now. Despite the paucity of originality in the story, Nathalie and Markus are two characters which at least have quirky enough personalities to keep the viewers engaged enough while everyone else fits the typical supporting cast model to a tee. Keen eyed viewers who watched the French TV drama Spiral will have spotted Audrey Fleurot, who plays the bitchy, conniving lawyer Joséphine Karlsson, in the completely opposite role of the sexy “boobs and bum” secretary to Charles.
François Damiens is actually quite charming and perfectly cast as Nathalie’s unlikely suitor Markus, possessing an acutely awkward image and natural comic timing. Sadly there is little palpable chemistry between Damiens and Tautou which is a huge handicap for the inexperienced sibling directors to overcome. Tautou, to her credit, handles everything she is given with earnestness be it the emotional or quirky material. But she has the unfortunate disadvantage of having such a unique and easily recognisable face that whatever role she plays, she is (Amelie aside) still Audrey Tautou and not the character on screen, no matter how good an actress she is.
While Delicacy might not rate highly on the originality scale, it at least delivers a lightweight slice of undemanding entertainment with its heart in the right place, even if its ambitions barely break earth’s atmosphere
French Audio: 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio and 2.0 Stereo LPCM (Blu-ray)
Rating – ***
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