Starring Cécile De France, Albert Dupontel, and Claude Brasseur. In French with English subtitles. Not yet rated. Opens Friday, May 18, at the Ridge Theatre
Sometimes lightweight is the right weight. Avenue Montaigne is a Parisian pastry created for the screen. A creamy ode to the City of Light and the dreamers who set it apart from more prosaic places, the film focuses on a set of sensitive types at different stages in the performance of life.
Chief among them are an esteemed concert pianist (Albert Dupontel) running out of steam for the hectic, high-profile life that his wife (Italy's Laura Morante) still enjoys. He has a big orchestral show coming up the same night as a flighty soap actor (Valérie Lemercier) is due to return to the stage in a Georges Feydeau farce when what she really wants to do is get hired by a famous American director (Sydney Pollack) for his latest film. That same day will see an auction liquidating the fabulous art collection amassed by a retired businessman (veteran Claude Brasseur) whose college-teacher son (Christopher Thompson) is perpetually pissed at the old man. Lately, this is because Dad is shacked up with the hot young thing (Annelise Hesme) who dumped him some years back.
Complicated, non ? Tying these self-absorbed players together are a couple of warm-hearted figures. One, a lifelong stage manager and star dresser (the indelible Dani), is about to retire. The other, a lovely young woman named Jessica (up-and-comer Cécile De France), is new to Paris and therefore immune to the politics gripping the rest. Having left behind her aged grandmother (the delightful Suzanne Flon, who died just after the film was completed), the penniless country girl gets a job waiting tables in a bistro catering to theatrical types. (She's the first woman the place has ever employed and gets the job when the cranky manager can't explain why.)
Her role as rootless waif in the proceedings makes the slightly awkward Jessica a perfect go-between among battling parties. Her connection with the disgruntled professor is not quite convincing, however. On paper, Thompson's character might seem a bit more charming and vulnerable than I perceived him on-screen. Of course, I didn't realize he had written the script, and written it with his mother, Daniíƒ ¨le Thompson, who is also the director. Well, no one said Parisian theatre life was meant to be democratic, or that a movie this much fun had to be perfect to justify spending 90 witty and oh-so-human minutes in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.