I have somewhat conflicted feelings about the French trifle "Romantics Anonymous." As a quirky romantic comedy, the film plays out exactly as you might anticipate. From a plotting standpoint, it offers little new. And yet, the film and its stars are just so likable and, dare I say, charming. Despite my intellectual reservations and the feeling that I'd seen this narrative a hundred times, I still was completely won over by the movie's eccentric sweetness. Is it a great movie? Is it a classic I will reflect on in a dozen years? Perhaps not. But for now, I will put aside my cynicism and admit it. I loved "Romantics Anonymous!" There, I've said it and I won't be ashamed any longer. My brain tells me this is a four star movie, but my heart is going all out with the highest recommendation. It's sweet, funny, and just odd enough to seem refreshingly different. And did I mention how charming it was? Maybe I've grown soft in my old age.
Jean-Pierre Ameris' film introduces us to a pair of central characters with enough quirks and nervous tics to make one wonder how they've achieved any success in the modern world. When playing up movie eccentricity, many comedy films overburden their story lines with contrivance. "Romantics Anonymous" walks a fine line without disengaging the audience, and this dance of social ineptitude delivers genuine sweetness and amusement. Benoit Poelvoorde plays the head of a chocolate factory that has fallen on hard times. In addition to his business dilemma, he is battling an inability to really connect with others in a meaningful way. Isabelle Carre plays a talented candy maker riddled with shyness and an emotional sensitivity that causes her to "feel too much." When she gets a job at the factory, might she be its unwitting savior? Might the two be soul mates? Can love conquer all? I don't suppose any of the answers will come as a major surprise.
And yet, the movie is all but irresistible. Carre is an absolute delight as she tries to conquer her hesitancy with self affirmations and songs. It's an astute comedic performance. And Poelvoorde brings a necessary relatability to his role. As written, it is a role that could have been quite alienating, but I was always rooting for this troubled duo to push past the manufactured barriers of their relationship. Even though the film took me down a very familiar path, it was a journey that was well worth taking. If you like this type of film, "Romantics Anonymous" takes a tired premise and makes it seem new again. A smart script and winning performances distinguish this from the pack. KGHarris, 3/12.