Monday, June 10, 2013

The Stroller Strategy: A Baby Not Having a Baby

What could be more attractive than accidental fatherhood?  Do not fret.  This mostly unemployed freelance artist is not really a new father.  He is just trying to take advantage of an unlikely set of circumstances to win back his former girlfriend in Clément Michel’s The Stroller Strategy (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Marie Deville fell for Thomas Platz when he crashed her birthday party.  However, his immaturity and reluctance to even consider a family slowly taxes her patience.  The sad sack is totally blind-sided when she summarily dumps him, rather inconveniently on her same birth date.  He does not deal with her rejection in a productive manner.  Yet, when he finds himself caring for a hospitalized neighbor’s infant, Platz recognizes an opportunity.  Since the break-up, Deville quit her nursing job, opening an upscale infant education and recreational center.  Guess who shows up as a prospective client.

While Strategy revisits well worn territory, Michel’s execution is mostly harmless.  As Platz and Deville, Raphaël Personnaz and Charlotte Le Bon develop some pleasant chemistry.  The latter has a genuinely luminous screen presence, making it rather challenging to believe the two could ever be a couple, even with their nice bantering rhythms.

Unfortunately, every joke you expect eventually turns up in Strategy, mostly garnering eye-rolls.  As a notable exception, Julie Ferrier is wickedly funny as Platz’s cougarish classmate, Valérie. Conversely, the gags involving Platz’s friend and stroller strategy advocate, Paul Bordinot, border on the creepy, while Jérôme Commandeur’s shticky performance does little to rehabilitate them.

There are few surprises in Strategy, which will be reassuring for some viewers.  Admirably, it suggests fatherhood, commitment, honesty, and steady employment are all very good things.  Still, it is funniest when Ferrier is on-screen, but alas, her supporting role is relatively small.  At best a middling trifle viewers will be hard pressed to remember a week later, The Stroller Strategy opens this Friday (6/14) in New York at the Angelika Film Center.