French filmmaker Cedric Klapisch keeps the tone light and the serious themes just under the surface as he revisits the lively characters from The Spanish Apartment (2002) and Russian Dolls (2005). Despite its comical plotting, the film remains grounded in real life, this time in an ethnically blended corner of New York City as the characters turn 40 and face major life changes. It's a relaxed, enjoyable romp that sometimes feels rather silly but continually catches the whiff of an important issue.
Our hero Xavier (Romain Duris) is living in Paris, exhausted by the surprises life won't stop throwing at him. The latest shock comes from his girlfriend Wendy (Kelly Reilly), who announces that she's taking their children (Pablo Mugnier-Jacob and Margaux Mansart) and moving back to Manhattan, where she plans to live with another man. Stunned, and knowing he can write anywhere, Xavier follows her and moves in with his old pal Isabelle (Cecil De France) and her girlfriend Ju (Sandrine Holt) in Brooklyn. Perhaps now Xavier might also be able to be in the life of the child he has helped Isabelle conceive to raise with Ju. So he finds a woman, Nancy (Li Jun Li), who will marry him so he can get an American visa. Then his ex-girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou) comes for a visit, sparking old feelings that complicate everything.
Yes, the scene is set for a wild farce of a final act as Martine, the immigration investigators, Isabelle and Ju and a variety of kids all converge on Xavier's new Chinatown flat. This wacky slapstick gets rather grating, since there are so many more interesting places this film could have gone, but it's funny and very nicely played by the cast of shamelessly charming actors. Each portrays a person who is incapable of making the most important decisions in their lives, which gives the film a loose sense of authenticity even if the events feel rather contrived.
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Xavier Rousseau is heartbroken when his British wife Wendy leaves him for a man she met in New York and takes their two children with her. Determined to maintain contact with his kids, he flies over to America from France and attempts to become an American citizen in any way he can; from donating his sperm to a lesbian couple to marrying a Chinese woman. He meets Wendy's new boyfriend, who happens to be annoyingly nice and - to Wendy's irritation - highly sympathetic to Xavier's dilemma in moving to a foreign country, and he even has chance to reconnect with an old lover, Martine, who has come to visit him and wants to make a fresh start. As he tries to get his life back on track, things just keep getting harder and harder.
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Though it is a solid movie with some astute observations, L'Auberge Espagnole constantly pushes you away like a busy parent on a deadline. The movie never makes a connection because it's too busy tackling too many subjects, instead of focusing on doing one thing well.
Continue reading: L'Auberge Espagnole Review
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French filmmaker Cedric Klapisch keeps the tone light and the serious themes just under the...
Xavier Rousseau is heartbroken when his British wife Wendy leaves him for a man she...