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artisanal film reviews | by maryann johanson

A Perfect Plan movie review: dumb and dumber

A Perfect Plan red light

With rom-coms like this, who needs warcrimes? This is the most cruel, most contrived romantic comedy I have ever had the displeasure to endure.
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing

I’m “biast” (con): nothing

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

With rom-coms like this, who needs warcrimes? Or cancer? Or toast that falls to the floor buttered side down? I hadn’t previously thought that there might be an arms race to find the most horrific concept possible that might be labeled, with a straight face, “romantic” and “funny,” but maybe such a race is on. If so, it has been won byA Perfect Plan, the most cruel, most contrived romantic comedy I have ever had the displeasure to endure.

The genre works — or doesn’t — because you get so enrapt in the possibility of happiness for a couple that you forgive all the strained shenanigans it takes to get them together. But by the time this movie was over, I not only didn’t want Isabelle to be happy, I wanted her to suffer for her awful behavior. (I like Diane Kruger [The Host, Inglourious Basterds], who plays her, but no amount of movie-star charm could overcome what her character does here. I don’t know what the actress was thinking, and I despair that this was probably the best role she’s been offered lately.) Here is her ridiculous situation: the women in her family are “cursed,” and invariably see their first marriages collapse, although they then go on to have wonderful and enduring second marriages. Isabelle is madly in love with Pierre (Robert Plagnol) and has been with him for 10 years, but she refuses to marry him, because she’s a superstitious ninny. So her sister, Corinne (Alice Pol), concocts a plan for Isabelle to fly from Paris (or wherever it is in France that they all live) to Copenhagen, where some rando has been paid to marry her and instantly divorce her. (Apparently Copenhagen is Europe’s Nevada, the go-to place for quickie weddings and quickie divorces.) And then Isabelle will have cheated the curse and be “free” to marry Pierre.

Wait. It gets dumber.

The rando never shows up in Copenhagen, and after a desperate phone call home, Isabelle decides to take Corinne’s suggestion to simply find some other loser to marry and instantly dump. And Isabelle homes in on travel writer Jean-Yves (Dany Boon: Joyeux Noël), whom she met on the plane to Copenhagen.

Now, I figured I knew what was coming, and I was cringing already: Isabelle would explain the situation to Jean-Yves, who would agree to the farce because, I dunno, writers always need money, and then via Complications and Reasons as they run around romantic Copenhagen, they’d end up actually falling in love. But no. What this movie goes on to do is so much worse than this.

Isabelle follows Jean-Yves to Nairobi — he was flying to Africa via Denmark because it’s cheaper; see: poor writers. Because who wouldn’t fly to Africa on a whim, with no luggage and no vaccinations? She inveigles her way into his life through outrageous lies and deceptions about who she is, why she’s suddenly in Nairobi too, and what she wants from him. (I suspect her behavior is supposed to be cute and charming and funny. It isn’t. She’s a terrible person. And he’s pretty idiotic for not seeing right through her.) She tricks him into marrying her in a Masai wedding ceremony–

I want to repeat this so that it’s perfectly clear:

She tricks him into marrying her in a Masai wedding ceremony.

Shall we count how many ways that’s insulting, and all the many people it’s insulting to? Lest we find ourselves indulging in a tendency to be generous — which the film does not deserve at all — by presuming that no insult was intended, later there’s a scene back in France in which Isabelle is trying to get the Masai ceremony vacated, the racist gist of which is: Aren’t Masai weddings adorable and quaint and yet shouldn’t really count as weddings at all?

Later still, before Isabelle and Jean-Yves end up hopelessly in actual, forever love — yes, you may gag; I did — comes the physical and psychological abuse (in Moscow!) as she’s trying to convince Jean-Yves that she is a harridan and that he must divorce her.

*cough*

Again, I remind you: This is all supposed to be hilarious and lovey-dovey. It’s supposed to make you want to see Isabelle and Jean-Yves end up together. And it isn’t and it doesn’t. Not even a teeny bit. Not even if you squint your eyes and hold your nose. I have no idea what was going through director Pascal Chaumeil’s (A Long Way Down, Heartbreaker) head in any single scene or in the overall. I can’t imagine that not one of the four credited screenwriters — Laurent Zeitoun, Yoann Gromb, Béatrice Fournera, and Philippe Mechelen — didn’t stop them all at some point and say, “Guys, look. Is this working?”

This is what I’m worried about now: The high concept here is so perfectly horrific, and engages in so many appalling stereotypes — women as manipulative bitches, men as clueless morons — that it seems inevitable that Hollywood will look, with terrible glee, to remake it.

We must work tirelessly to prevent this from happening.


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A Perfect Plan (2014)
UK/Ire release: Jun 13 2014 (VOD same day)

BBFC: rated 15 (infrequent strong sex references)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, you might want to reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    Those crazy womenfolk. What can you do, amiright, guys?

    Let’s try to engage Hollywood on its own terms. These films are meant to appeal to women, meaning that the female lead is often deliberately genericised so that the female viewer can more easily insert herself into the character. But it sounds as though this isn’t a female character that even a fairly dim and uncomplaining viewer would want to be.

  • LaSargenta

    Just the set-up — as it is described, forget about your reaction to it — looked revolting to me; then I read

    She tricks him into marrying her in a Masai wedding ceremony–

    and felt my stomach clench. You didn’t have to highlight that.

    Cultural appropriation and fuckery at its finest.

    I think I would only watch this if I were a writer for Winona LaDuke’s takeover of The Daily Show. I think it would afford much material.

  • Speaking of… did you see the trailer for DUMB AND DUMBER TO yet? I, uh… I laughed at it pretty hard.

    So, yeah. This one sounds pretty terrible though. I’m trying to remember the last “romantic comedy” movie I actually enjoyed. NOTTING HILL maybe?

  • I hated Dumb and Dumber, so I’m not looking forward to a sequel. (I haven’t seen the trailer.)

  • Oh, well.. it’s quite definitely more of the same. So steer clear! :)

  • Jean Morel

    You realize this isn’t a Hollywood film right?

  • RogerBW

    Hollywood is a culture far more than it is a place. People who should know better imitate everything about it in their own filmmaking, in the hope of getting lots of money. And so the cycle continues.

  • Jean Morel

    No, it’s not. Hollywood is a place and has become an accepted umbrella term to refer to American cinema and the American entertainment industry. The film industry in France is a completely different place. The mentality is different, the funding is different, and so on… And Germany is completely different from France, and India is different and China is different and Thailand is different,… Every country has their own way and philosophy of doing things so, no, calling everything “Hollywood” is not acceptable and frankly quite insulting.

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