Chaumeil channels Shakespeare in French rom-com

This article first appeared on Film Blerg.

In most romantic films, the good girl gets the good guy, vindicating all of the audiences’ wildest dreams. Without changing the formula too much, Pascal Chaumeil’s Fly Me To The Moon manages to throw a curve ball into the mix, concocting a situation where two good guys are competing for the affections of a despicable female lead. While the outcome is unlikely to have you reaching for the tissue box, at least this nuanced plot delivers more laughs than your typical rom-com.

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Fly Me To The Moon commences with a Shakespeare-esque premise, warning audiences to approach the film with a light heart. We meet a French family who have a long history of divorcing their first spouses and finding true love in their second marriage. As determined as decade-long lovers Isabelle (Diane Kruger) and Pierre (Robert Plagnol) are to buck this trend, the superstitious Isabelle is nevertheless reluctant to tie the knot. Her alternate plan is to secretly marry and divorce a random man (Jean-Yves, played by Dany Boon), allowing Pierre to be her lucky number two. A classic Shakespearian catch ensues, however, when Jean-Yves falls for Isabelle.

This ludicrous scenario is made somewhat easier to stomach by the fact the story is re-told in flashback mode over a family dinner. For the most part though, this hackneyed format is largely unnecessary and fails to deliver the pay-off the audience deserves.

Jean-Yves has his flaws, but is charming and easy to love. In contrast, the protagonist Isabelle is abhorrent. For all her beauty and flirtatiousness, she is insincere and dishonest, making it difficult to for the audience to sympathise with her or believe that she and Jean-Yves are destined to be soul mates, the way Chaumeil would like us to believe. Likewise, Chaumeil does little to suggest that Isabelle and Pierre are unhappy together, making the Isabelle-Jean-Yves coupling discomforting to the viewer.

While Jean-Yves and Isabelle lack chemistry, their dysfunctional partnership at least triggers a few laughs. It’s mostly slapstick humour, although Boon deserves some credit for his self-deprecating and affable characterisation of Jean-Yves, who is the most multi-dimensional character of the film.

The lack of character development on behalf of the rest of the cast means Fly Me To The Moon could have been so much better. For what it is though, the film is silly enough to generate laughs, and fun enough to keep the audience engaged. That might not be enough to make Shakespeare proud, but it will be enough to leave audiences reasonably satisfied.

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