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Avenue Montaigne (PG-13)

Release Date: February 16th, 2007 (Angelika Film Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinemas) by THINKfilm.
The Cast: Cécile de France, Valérie Lemercier, Albert Dupontel, Laura Morante, Claude Brasseur, Christopher Thompson, Dani, Annelise Hesme, François Rollin, Sydney Pollack. Directed by Daniéle Thompson.
In French with subtitles.

BASIC PREMISE: Upon her arrival in Paris, Jessica (de France) works as a waitress at a café and crosses paths with a variety of artists in the famous Avenue Montaigne.

ENTERTAINMENT VALUE: Avenue Montaigne relies on the charms of its ensemble cast and equally on the charming city of Paris. Just like Love Actually, it bounces back and forth between the lives of many different characters, old and young, some of whom never meet each other. At its center is Jessica, a young waitress at a café on Avenue Montaigne who interacts with many different people who suffer in some shape or form to some degrees—but nothing too melodramatic. There’s Catherine (Lemercier), a thespian losing her mind, and Jean-Francois (Dupontel), a pianist who feels frustrated and uncomfortable at work while his wife (Morante) doesn’t understand him. An elderly art collector (Brasseur) auctions off his art collection while his much younger gold-digger and fights with his son (Thompson). Director Daniéle Thompson and her son, Christopher Thompson, who co-wrote the script with her, overwhelm the film with all of these characters and a few other minor ones, but at least they add some witty and humorous dialogue and maintain an appropriate brisk and breezy pace for a romantic comedy. Scene-stealing Valérie Lemercier plays the liveliest character, Catherine. More scenes with her would have been very welcome. Jessica seems appealing and even adorable, but her character doesn’t have enough complexity to be anything more than a spectator who occasionally interacts with others. Sydney Pollack pops up in a hilarious cameo. Ultimately, the most interesting character is Avenue Montaigne in all of its enchanting sights and sounds, which director Daniéle Thompson celebrates in almost every shot and through a well-chosen soundtrack of eclectic French music.

SPIRITUAL VALUE: Everyone has issues to deal with no matter how wealthy, famous, or old they are. In one particularly simple, yet insightful scene, Jessica claims that, when it comes to answering the telephone, there are two categories of people in this world: those curious, friendly people who ask “Who might you be?” and those cynical, grumpy folks who ask, “What the heck do you want from me?”. She falls into former category which everyone should, as well, in a utopian society.



IN A NUTSHELL: Enchanting and charming. The best romantic comedy since Love Actually .


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