Writers: Michel Gondry, Luc Bossi, Boris Vian (novel)
Cast: Romain Duris, Audrey Tatou, Gad Elmaleh, Omar Sy
Running Time: 94 mins
The lowdown: Director Michel Gondry returns to his cut and paste comfort zone after the big budget bloat-fest of The Green Hornet. Enlisting the assistance of Monsieur ‘Populaire’ Romain Duris and the ever-adorable Audrey ‘Amelie’ Tautou, it’s an existential love story with visual gags and a too-cool-for-school score. Shame it’s all surface.
The full verdict: For this dreamy but detached adaption of polymath Boris Vian’s sci-fi/romance novel: Froth on the Daydream (the title wisely changed to that of a Duke Ellington song), Michel Gondry uses every cinematic trick in his arsenal, including split screen, back projection and stop-motion to translate its surrealistic structure.
Independently wealthy but lovelorn Colin (Duris) lives in a sky-high Parisian bachelor pad, inventing melodic drinks mixer ‘The Pianoctail’ while palling around with his charismatic chef Nicolas (Sy) and a mischievous mouse (Russian actor Sasha Bourdo, in a furry onesie).
For those unaffiliated with Gondry’s style, the first half occasionally resembles a French version of The Mighty Boosh with bird-headed DJ’s, Rubik’s Cube diaries and a scuttling, insectoid doorbell.
While to some this may sound mildly insufferable, Duris and Sy’s antics are infectiously charming. Sy in particular has a laid-back likeability that lifts each scene he appears in.
They’re joined by Audrey Tautou, who can do winsome and whimsical in her sleep. She’s perfectly cast as Colin’s gamine dream-girl Chloe. They make an enchanting couple and the initial stages of their courtship are clumsily sweet.
There are welcome bursts of humour throughout, particularly surrounding bon ami Chick’s (Gad Elmaleh) growing obsession with a familiar sounding philosopher and the unconventional bedside manner of a visiting physician.
But when events take a serious (albeit no less surreal) turn, those once entertaining distractions prove distancing, diluting the dénouement’s impact and trivialising moments that should be tender.
Gondry’s breakout hit Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind depicted encroaching darkness and loss with visual flare but without forfeiting the heartbreaking devastation.
Half an hour has been hacked off the running time for its international release, perhaps here hides the emotional heft.