Jeremy Leven’s Girl on a Bicycle turns the miscommunication between cultures into an utterly lifeless romantic comedy best appreciated as a travel guide for first-time tourists to Paris. The film sees Italian tour bus driver Paolo (Vincenzo Amato) falling for and then accidentally injuring an ethereal local and would-be model, Cecile (Louise Monot), caring for her and her two young children as she recovers from a few broken bones and hiding his new lifestyle from his fiancée, Greta (Nora Tschirner), an uppity German stewardess. Leven needlessly complicates this fairly straightforward scenario with inconsequential subplots involving minor characters whose lives often and abruptly take precedent over the more firmly established central relationship. Just about the only aspect that seems to remain consistent throughout is the banal pop music that only succeeds at emphasizing the impersonality of the film’s aesthetic.
The clumsiness that defines the handling of the narrative is carried over into the film’s troublesome artistic tone; stylistically it recalls the lightness of an old-fashioned family film or classic screwball comedy, yet Leven disrupts this tenor when he works in awkwardly staged, cheaply titillating sex scenes that exude the braggadocio of a child telling dirty schoolyard jokes. The unconvincing insistence that Paolo is a romantic seems to try to hide the character’s severe self-absorption and casual sexism, both of which go unacknowledged by those who perpetually circle his orbit, assigning him favors that will ultimately save his ass—this in spite of the fact that he freely blames everyone for his problems. As Paolo helps Cecile recover, Girl on a Bicycle subtly implies that a woman with a distinct, individual personality will never live up to the perfect girl his dreams expected her to be. A scene meant to be taken as a wholesome image of paternal duty unintentionally best personifies the man’s character: Arriving late to pick up Cecile’s kids from school, Paolo leads the children on a march home in the pouring rain, using his umbrella all to himself while the youngsters become soaking wet in his wake.