Saturday, March 25, 2006

Russian Dolls (Les Poupées Russes)

Russian Dolls are those wooden toy dolls, which can be opened to reveal another doll, and opened again to reveal another, until you reach the final, tiny one. That in essence, is the movie's message on love and relationships. How do you know that the person you're with, is that final soulmate, the final tiny russian doll at the end of the chain? Or are you still stuck in the process of searching, and breaking up, and perpetually wondering and keeping a lookout for that someone else perceivably better?

A sequel to The Spanish Apartment, you don't really have to watch that in order to enjoy Russian Dolls, even though most of the characters come back in this one. The protagonist is Xavier (Romain Duris), a down-and-out writer who's looking for his next big break, no matter if it's a cheesy love story that he's tasked to work with, or ghostwriting memoirs of celebrities. We follow his journey as he seeks his dolls, most of whom were encounters in the Spanish Apartment.

First we have Martine (the lovely Audrey Tautou), his ex-girlfriend who's now a single parent, and who still holds a candle for him, but only when she's feeling lonely and needy. Don't you just feel that sometimes you're being made use of, but you're a nice guy and is accomodating to that ex? But no worries, there's always that buddy to rely on, and Xavier's buddy happens to be a lesbian Isabelle (Cecile De France, that tough as nails cookie in High Tension), a smart financial analyst. Friends like these must have ok? They'll even go all out to be out of character just to assist you in situations, providing you with accomodation, and dressing up so femininely (she's a butch by the way) to be your pretend-girlfriend.

In between, Xavier tries to get back to the dating game by hooking up with store assistant Kassia (Aissa Maiga), but as you know, the ex always gets in the way, somehow. So another potential relationship, ended up broken before it even had a chance to get started.

But the final two proved to be most challenging of the lot. Business brings Xavier and Wendy together (Kelly Reilly, in a lot of movies lately, like Mrs Henderson Presents, Pride and Prejudice), and love blossoms between the two, despite initially starting off as platonic, and Wendy still being stuck in a relationship that she doesn't have the strength to walk away from. But their relationship is put to the test when Xavier, through business, also gets the opportunity to hook up with up-and-coming model Celia (Lucy Gordon). Ah, a beautiful celebrity, that unattainable perfect being, the object of everyman's desire and lust, now within reach. Which would he choose? Which would you choose? The down to earth person, or the party girl surviving in that Barbie world that last only as long as their looks do?

The movie suggests many known thoughts and ideas on romance and relationships, such as loving someone meaning loving their flaws, that there's no such thing as the perfect person, just only being able to love someone because their flaws don't drive you up the wall. And the eternal question of when will you stop looking? Temptations abound, but at the end of the day, do you cross the line, or who do you return to? It might seem that the story's the usual of love, finding love, losing it, and all the cliches of a romance flick, but with an added punch.

It's also interesting to note the different apartments that Xavier encounters, from his ex's home, to Isabelle's bachelor pad, from an ordinary London home in Wendy's, to the luxurious French suite of Celia's. There're also plenty of country hopping, between England, France and Russia (Moscow, St Petersburg), where their friend in common William is getting married. And yes, Apple laptops sure looks sexy!

Probably I had it easier to identify with this movie, given I'm the targeted age group of those approaching the big-three-oh, wondering about stuff like these occassionally. Peppered with plenty of comedy to keep the going interesting, especially its techniques of juxtaposing reel-reality with reel-fantasy, Russian Dolls is a truly contemporary, chic, and sassy film standing on its soapbox with a mouthpiece touching on modern relationships.

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