Now that Zooey Deschanel has taken a detour into TV land, is Audrey Tautou the most insufferable pixy presence in cinema today? Delicacy certainly bolsters such a notion, playing off the Amélie star’s big cute eyes, long cute legs, and bright cute smiles to thoroughly grating effect. In adapting and directing his own novel, alongside his brother Stéphane, David Foenkinos revels in his leading lady’s over-emoting, indulging in myriad tracking shots and zooms into close-ups fixated on Tautou beaming or morosely staring off into the distance. Those are the only two expressive modes necessitated by this tedious romantic comedy, which commences with meet-cute schmaltziness involving the early happiness of business exec Nathalie (Tautou) and hubby François (Pio Marmaï), a blissful existence decimated by François’s sudden death in a car accident. Cue mopey mourning of a self-serious sort, with the story’s faux-gravity sabotaged by the fact that the couple’s preceding life was dramatized with gimmicky, cursory brushstrokes, primarily via a circular pan around the couple in a snowy courtyard, their clothes changing to wedding outfits to indicate the passage of time and a montage of Polaroid snapshots detailing their travelogue honeymoon.
Three years later, Nathalie is a hermetic workaholic rebuffing the advances of her pushy boss, Charles (Bruno Todeschini), though a laughably phony moment of impulsive affection directed at a co-worker, Markus (François Damiens), leads to unlikely new romance. That relationship is complicated not only by Nathalie’s persistent grieving, but also by the fact that people think gangly Swede Markus isn’t good enough for smart, sexy Nathalie—including the film, which mocks Markus via shots of him jogging in ugly blue short-shorts and goofily fleeing Nathalie at the first sign of potential love because he’s afraid of being hurt.
If this entire healing-through-unexpected-amour setup weren’t enough of a groaner, the directors constantly have characters narrate their own internal thoughts, and utilize sappy ballads with oh-so-relevant lyrics for every emotive moment. Such devices murder any genuine sentiment or comedy, and though Damiens makes for a moderately palatable oddball, Tautou pouts, frets, and struts about with an air of arrogance that’s encouraged by the story, in which friends and co-workers are either head-over-heels smitten with Nathalie or, as with her jerky BFF, Sophie (Joséphine de Meaux), believe that she deserves nothing but the very best in terms of career and a mate—the result being a gratingly precious film that might have better been titled Everybody Loves Tautou.