Saturday, December 01, 2012

IFWES ’12: Happiness Never Comes Alone

Is an underachieving jazz musician the most promising step-father material?  Probably not—and he is not interested anyway.  Nonetheless, people have a way of coming together in romantic comedies.  Featuring a big name cast and liberal portions of slapstick comedy, James Huth’s Happiness Never Comes Alone (trailer here) was a crowd-pleasing opener for the 2012 In French with English Subtitles Film Festival, now underway in New York.

Sadly, Sophie Marceau could not be in New York last night, but her animated co-star Gad Elmaleh was present for a post-screening Q&A.  The French Ambassador was there too, but Elmaleh was under the impression he left early and mercilessly skewered him accordingly.  Nobody ever said diplomacy was easy.  At least Elmaleh was a hit, on-screen and in-person.

As the ostensibly mismatched Sacha Keller and Charlotte Posche, who are in fact perfect for each other, Elmaleh and Marceau develop some nice chemistry together.  The son of a celebrated classical pianist, Keller definitely has a hedonistic Peter Pan thing going on, until he meets Posche.  She is a mature and sophisticated director of a non-profit arts foundation and the ex-wife of the director of the corporation he composes freelance jingles for.  She also has three kids from her two previous marriages.  That ought to be more than enough to scare off the cradle-robbing Keller, yet he is overwhelmingly attracted to her.

Of course, there are those working to keep the two lovers apart, especially her not ex-enough-husband.  Surprisingly though, her brood warms to the musician.  Still, the course of true love never runs straight, detouring in this case to New York City’s Great White Way.

Both Elmaleh and Marceau take a number of pratfalls in Happiness, which is pretty impressive in the case of the latter, given her glamorous image.  Frankly, her Posche might get hit on the head with a bathroom sink more times than any movie character since the glory days of Laurel & Hardy.  That should also give you a good idea of the film’s tone.  In fact, it is roughly similar to Pascal Chaumeil’s Heartbreaker, but the comedy is broader (leaving less to be lost in translation).  Jazz fans might find the jazz isn’t very jazzlike though.

Regardless of one’s taste for physical humor, it is rather refreshing to see Marceau playing a professional woman who is attractive to be sure, but also someone relatively down-to-earth and no longer an ingénue to life.  Aside from brief references to the Holocaust from Keller’s grandmother, Happiness never addresses any hot button themes, making it a good screening selection for whenever an ambassador might be expected.  However, the In French fest has some gritty looking crime dramas on-deck, starring genuine movie stars like Daniel Auteuil and festival special guest Roschdy Zem. 

Recommended for fans of romantic comedy with a strong physical component, Happiness Never Comes Alone is evidently unlikely to screen in America outside of festival play, due to issues of musical clearance.  Interested viewers should therefore keep their eyes open.  Fans of French cinema in general should also definitely check out this year’s IFWES festival, with screenings throughout Saturday (12/1) and Sunday (12/2) at the French Institute Alliance Française’s Florence Gould Hall.