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” (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.
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.