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Happily Ever After
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by Jay Seaver

"I guess making a film about cheating on your wife beats actually doing it."
2 stars

Memo to my brothers and friends: If, ten years or so down the road, I start acting like the guys in "Happily Ever After", please kick the crap out of me. I'll deserve that sort of wake-up call if I become that kind of sad whiner who doesn't appreciate his good fortune. Yvan Attal doesn't deserve a beating for merely making a movie about such people. Maybe just a little slapping around.

It is, I guess, a mid-life crisis movie that focuses on three friends around the age of forty. Fred (Alain Cohen) is still single, going out with a different younger woman every night. Georges (Alain Chabat) and his wife Nathalie (Emmanuelle Seigner) fight constantly and loudly, greatly annoying their neighbors. Vincent (Attal), on the other hand, still seems to greatly enjoy being with his lovely wife Gabrielle (Attal's real-life wife Charlotte Gainsbourg); they have food fights while their son Joseph (Ben Attal) is asleep and role-play in a bar to open the movie. So how come Vincent is having an affair with the mother of one of Joseph's classmates, and why do we see Gabrielle flirting with a man she sees in a record store?

Well, okay, that first question sort of explains the latter. But why is Vincent taking a mistress (Angie David)? Dunno. I guess the idea is that it can happen with anyone, but if that's what we're supposed to glean from the story, it's rather unsatisfying. These characters aren't individuals; despite not quite all being everymen, they still don't have much that makes them unique, or any real sense of personal history. So why should we be interested? Certainly, these characters' stories are believable, but is believable all that a movie should aspire to? I remember seeing a movie a year or so ago where my response was basically that I could get the same narrative by going to a local pizza place an eavesdropping. Pretty much the same can be said for Happily Ever After, although I'd probably have to go someplace a little more upscale.

It's not completely generic; Vincent and Gabrielle have some cute byplay, and their food fight is really a gem of a sequence. There's a funny, if predictable, bit where Nathalie doesn't want to be outshouted in bed by the new neighbors. On the other hand, the part where Gabrielle and Vincent's mistress wind up at neighboring tables in a restaurant is contrived and eyeroll-inducing, only enlivened by Aurore Clement as the mistress's mother. And the resolution of the thread about Vincent's and Gabrielle's martial troubles is pretty thoroughly anticlimactic.

Of course, it kind of has to be; it's not like there's any real chemistry between Mr. Attal and Ms. David. Or Chabat and Seigner. Or anyone, really, besides Attal and Gainsbourg. Charlotte Gainsbourg is really the best reason to watch this movie, more delightfully down-to-earth than she was in the last Attal/Gainsbourg comedy, My Wife is an Actress. She is, really, too good to be true in this movie - beautiful, smart, playful, successful in her own right, and if you're going to cheat on your wife, you really can't imagine her taking it better than Gabrielle does.

The title is meant ironically, suggesting that what comes after the fairy-tale romance isn't easy, but it's a pretty bleak outlook. None of the couples really seem passionate; even Vincent and Gabrielle seem more determined to be happy than actually in love by the end. The creepiest scene, though, is when Fred makes a comment about forty-five years, and Vincent mentions that that's how long his parents have been married, and we cut to them (Claude Berrie and Anouk Aimee) visiting a restaurant, and it looks like they're just going through the motions. It's really rather horrifying, but placed at a point in the story where it seems like it's supposed to be reassuring. Instead, it's shiver-worthy. Then there's that thing with Johnny Depp (the guy Gabrille saw at the record store) at the end. What's that about?

But, again, I repeat - if ten years from now, I'm married to someone as terrific as this Charlotte Gainsbourg character, I would hope I'm smart enough to not screw it up, because as boringly realistic as this movie tries to be, it misses a basic truth: A gorgeous woman and a goofy man who doesn't appreciate her only stay together in French movies - especially when you throw Johnny Depp into the equation.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12207&reviewer=371
originally posted: 06/26/05 01:36:01
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Seattle Film Festival For more in the 2005 Seattle Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

8/25/06 Elizabeth S At times amusing and poignant, it captures a basic truth about relationships. 4 stars
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  11-Oct-2005 (NR)
  DVD: 11-Oct-2005



Directed by
  Yvan Attal

Written by
  Yvan Attal

  Charlotte Gainsbourg
  Yvan Attal
  Alain Chabat
  Emmanuelle Seigner
  Anouk Aimée

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