Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Hotel Normandy: Everybody Looks More Attractive Here

Hotels are convenient locations for romantic farces.  There are plenty of doors to slam and beds to jump into.  The friends of an attractive, still relatively young widow do not think she is doing enough of the latter.  They think they have a plan to help, but it only leads to misunderstandings in Charles Nemes’ Hotel Normandy (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.

Alice Necorre is a good friend and hard worker, but she has yet to start dating again.  Her private banking colleagues think they have the answer.  They have booked her a long weekend in the famous luxury hotel, so she can enjoy Deauville’s Contemporary Art Biennial.  As a surprise bonus, they have arranged (extorted) a client in arrears to whisk her off her feet for a madcap night of passion.  Unfortunately, when illness sidelines her would-be seducer, he sends his clumsy brother in his place.

Necorre is having none of Yvan Carlotti and his weird mugging, especially when she meets the sophisticated art dealer, Jacques Delboise.  She falls for him so hard, it scares her friends back home into coming clean.  Right, you can see how this will lead to confusion.  Throw in a misplaced valuable painting and you ought to have all the elements in place.

Yet, to a great extent, Normandy plays like a bedroom farce made by people embarrassed by bedroom farces.  It is far better at the rom than the com, which is an unusual mix.  The quiet moments work rather nicely but its attempts at broad comedy lack the necessary manic conviction.

Still, it is refreshing to watch a movie romance unfold between reasonably mature and responsible grown-ups, especially one executed with some charm.  Frankly, it is great to see the scruffy headed, slightly graying Eric Elmosnino (best known as the lead in Gainsbourg: a Heroic Life) as a leading man. His screen chemistry with Héléna Noguerra’s Lecorre is quite appealing.  On the flip side, it is sometimes painful watching Ary Abittan literally grin and bear it as Carlotti.

Much like Zhang Ziyi star vehicle My Lucky Star, Normandy features plenty of picturesque scenery, stylish costumes, and an impossibly attractive supporting cast.  The soundtrack even includes some Afro-Cuban music.  It ambles along easily enough, without ever really generating a lot of heat or tension.  Not quite as rich as Populaire, but considerably more rewarding than The Stroller Strategy, it should suit those with a taste for frothier French imports.  Recommended for fans of low impact rom coms, Hotel Normandy opens this Friday (9/27) in New York at the Village East.