Change Of Address (Changement d’adresse)
France (2006) Dir. Emmanuel Mouret
Here in the west we refer to cuisine from the orient as Chinese food whereas in its native China it is just food. Applying that logic, why isn’t the French horn just called the horn in France? Apologies for the obtuse intro but there is little else I was able to take away from this apparent rom-com from writer-director-actor Emmanuel Mouret.
Whilst looking for a flatmate David (Mouret), a gauche but well-mannered French horn player, meets the excitable Anne (Frédérique Bel) and the pair agree to share her apartment. Hired to teach the French horn to introverted teen Julia (Fanny Valette) by her mother (Ariane Ascaride), David falls in love with his pupil. Meanwhile Anne pines for her dream man, a customer at work named Gabriel to whom she has never spoken.
That essentially is the plot of this Eric Rohmer-esque outing, aside from the interfering presence of Julien (Dany Brillant), a restaurateur who falls in love with Julia on first sight, but unlike David, has the moves and the confidence to win her over. This creates a separation between David and Julia but is it really over?
Perhaps not being a huge fan of the few Rohmer films I have seen might be the reason why Change Of Address, to me, is missing something to make it feel more substantial than it should be. The characters aren’t particularly convincing, even for a comedy (something which is lacking here) making the plot more ridiculous under these circumstances.
Anne is the complete antithesis of David, a whirlwind of energy, non-stop chatter and ambiguity in her words and actions; Subtlety is not within her and everything she says is betrayed by her body language. David on the other hand is a bit of a drip, seemingly moving in slow motion and allows himself to be walked over by all and sundry. He’s a nice enough chap but so bland makes rice cakes seem like cocaine in comparison.
From the onset the emphasis is on the quirky, which is Anne’s raison d’être. She approaches David having seen him put up an ad in a shop window for a flatmate and invites him to her flat, under the pretence she is vetting him for a friend. Naturally that friend is her, which everyone except David could see coming, then later she throws herself at him, recoiling when he kisses her.
Admitting he did on a whim with no real romantic intentions, Anne is glad as she was just checking they could remain platonic – after all she has Gabriel, the mystery co-worker who barely notices she exists. When he does speak to her one day, she sees this as the first sign that fate will pair them off for all eternity. Guess how that turns out…
The scenario with David and Julia is equally daft. Julia is the human equivalent of a sack of potatoes with half the charisma, emitting nothing in the way of romantic signals or exuding even the slightest hint of a personality. Yet somehow David (and later Julien) fall for her within seconds of meeting, and this interest is reciprocated, albeit with less immediacy.
Not to say that all women should be sexed up extroverts to be a love interest but with Julie lacking a personality or any kind of sympathetic hook, the beguiling effect she has on men is, well, beguiling in itself. The cause of her ennui and lethargy is never explained or even discussed, we’re just expected to accept she is in a funk and her mother thinks learning a brass instrument will perk her up.
Julien showing up and sweeping her off her feet from right under David’s nose is a script contrivance and the only thing we get from this is either Julien has that magic touch with women or beneath Julia’s inert exterior is a promiscuous vixen. The latter, more likely, isn’t true, so it must be down to the former but why this is, again remains unresolved.
The script is, forgive the stereotype, typically French in that the dialogue is delivered at rapid fire pace and almost like the cast are narrating their lives and feelings despite the actions and imagery being obvious. To be fair, it is mostly David and Anne who get to speak, the latter being pretty much speaking for the two of them.
Giving credit where it is due, Mouret is capable of creating a credible rapport between his characters but for a film labelled a comedy, the wit and humour must have been lost in translation, as barely any lines registered as overtly funny. It is in the performances and the delivery, especially in Anne’s case, that we might find some amusement – such as Anne giving romantic advice to David from the bathtub while he is eating yoghurt.
Because the personalities are a one-dimensional mixture of quirkiness, listlessness and gormlessness the cast essentially are trapped within such tight parameters that they are unable to bring any sense of warmth or humanity to them. That might sound a little unfair but this is not necessarily a reflection of the performances, considering their achievement in being so convincingly awkward.
Mouret looks the part of the passive David, but fails to imbue him with sufficient charm for us to completely sympathise with his plight, while Fanny Valette is tasked with repressing any emotion making Julie a fascinating character whose attraction ultimately borders on the incredulous. And while Anne is bouncing of the walls hyper, Frédérique Bel is given the most room to work, if only Anne’s vigour had an on/off switch.
The most annoying thing about Change Of Address is that it isn’t a bad film at all, just an unremarkable and forgetful one when it could have delivered so much more. Its 81 minutes feel oddly protracted, but the content is so light and fluffy the DVD could have floated out of the player but itself.
Inoffensive but insubstantial.