Friday, April 20, 2012

Delicacy (La Délicatesse)


Expectations can be such a bitch, when pre-conceived notions formed by others become shattered when reality dawns upon them. It can apply to many areas, but in a romantic comedy, it almost certainly applies to how one perceives the other half that a friend had chosen. And I suppose for the girls if their friend's new beau doesn't come tall, dark and handsome, but balding, goofy and awkward, then there will be bewilderment that will take on a life of its own around the gossip mills.

The debut feature of directors David and Stephane Foenkinos, adapting from the former's novel, Delicacy turned out to be not what one expected, with scenes played out in rather individualistic fashion, and ultimately never finding a natural rhythm of pacing. It's a classic case where the sum of all its parts turned out to be rather rote and hardly surpassing the brilliance of ideas injected into individual episodes, making it a rather rough ride where you'd constantly wonder just where the story is heading.

The draw here is of course Audrey Tautou, playing yet another strong female character whose whirlwind romance with Francois (Pio Marmai) comes to a full stop when the inevitable happens, in a scene where I was expecting a vehicle to hit Francois on the screen from right to left. Well that wish got unfulfilled, but Francois does succumb to injuries and Tautou's Nathalie Kerr becomes a widow, devoting herself to her work for the next three years, before discovering opportunities for a fresh love life comes knocking on her door again. And all these serving as the prologue, while being really inconsequential to everything else that came after, and could have sped up the pacing to get to the crux of the story instead.

And that's the new chapter of her life predominantly set in her workplace, where her boss Charles (Bruno Todeschini) tried to hit on her, and her fellow work group mate Markus Lundl (Francois Damiens) becomes comicly attracted to her because of her sudden and unexpected, one off advances where she kisses him out of the blue. The rest of the film deals with their romantic dalliances, with some nice touches to dialogues given Markus' deadpan humourous streak, and self-deprecating jokes that gets delivered with a straight face. But it's true, I suppose for those who don't have what it takes on the outside, being a funny man definitely works wonders, and Markus soon has Nathalie eating out of his hand, not that he could handle the attention anyhow.

While the romance doesn't really work out that well, what did work are the little background events that anyone working in an office will encounter from time to time, and these are the most fun, with gossips spreading like wildfire, and how sometimes we get easily offended by others who tend to be quick to pass judgement on who we are from glimpses on the outside. Audrey Tautou is at her pixie best in a role somewhat failed to challenge the actress, with Francois Damiens upstaging her in almost every aspect and scene, thanks to having portray a more interesting character complete with insecurities and quirks that is easily identified with by anyone - you will feel his pain when being compared with the Ideal, Perfect Man, who exists only in minds and not in real life, and being quite the good sport and feeling quite comfortable with himself when his shortcomings are mocked at.

Delicacy turned out to be a rather choppy ride, with a rather erratic pacing and structure that seemed to branch off and take on a life of its own, rather than to be in sync to form a more coherent narrative. Still, it's down to the chemistry of the leads when playing the unlikeliest of couples both in social standing, looks and attitudes, without whom this delicacy would have turned out to be a bland affair.

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