IFC Films



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As Marie, a skittishly underconfident competitor in the romantic gamesmanship of Heartbeats, the second film by Quebecois petite prodige Xavier Dolan, Monia Chokri is the picture of watchful uncertainty. Her performance as a doe-eyed, tart-tongued Montreal hipster who, along with her quiffed gay BFF Francis (Dolan), becomes obsessively infatuated with golden-curled lit student Nicolas (Niels Schneider), is the best reason to see this wan comedy, which affects slow-mo, subculture airs, but is closer to a Francophone Reality Bites if that mid-‘90s bratfest had been a three on the Kinsey scale instead of a one. Initially feigning disinterest in the goofy country boy as a “self-satisfied Adonis,” both friends flatter his Audrey Hepburn fandom and affected conversational deployment of “Manichean” while trying to glean which of them is a better erotic fit for his inscrutable sexual tastes. Their passive-aggressive rivalry starts with mild snippiness (of Marie’s party dress, Francis snorts, “Not all vintage should come back”) and platonic sleepovers before cresting with a rural weekend and a flailing scuffle on fallen autumn leaves.

If three-way edging like this isn’t funny, it isn’t anything, and Dolan fractures his familiar triangle with a Greek chorus of young folks lamenting their banal scars (being dumped, engaging in helpless stalking) that add neither wisdom nor mirth, while inserting far too many reprises of a French siren’s “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)” on the soundtrack. The tics of Dolan the actor are a bit less bothersome; his forced smiles and deadpan self-denials reach a farcical peak when he interrupts his jackoff session with Nicolas’s T-shirt to accommodate a badly timed visit by the hunk’s boho mother (Anne Dorval). Mom’s warning that her boy is “an airhead” diagnoses Heartbeats‘s crucial plot problem: Nicolas, drunk and amiable, isn’t so beautiful or otherwise compelling to merit more than a weekend’s infatuation, let alone strobe-lit visions of Michelangelo’s David or jealous slapfights. When both suitors finally clear their throats, there’s no dramatic charge because the beloved is just a foxy cipher. Dolan ironically ends the movie with his best gag, employing a cinema heartthrob to bring Francis and Marie’s longings full circle, but by then his slight sendup of lustful hesitation has succumbed to blue balls.

IFC Films
100 min
Xavier Dolan
Xavier Dolan
Xavier Dolan, Monia Chokri, Niels Schneider, Anne Dorval, Anne-Élisabeth Bossé, Olivier Morin

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