To call the type of desiccated romantic comedies to which Hôtel Normandy belongs “chick flicks” smacks of a misogyny that still can’t compete with the assumptions of these well-upholstered but cheap exercises in luxe pandering. As glamorous widow and eternally smirking banker Alice (Héléna Noguerra) glides through her holiday at the Deauville art biennale, a birthday present with a sea view from two co-workers (per formula, one a prude and one a lusty bed-hopper), director Charles Nemes could be shooting a high-end infomercial for the Normandy tourism board. Even the laughs are in a labored, winking ad-campaign style, as a man blackmailed to seduce Alice by her well-meaning pals falls ill and is pinch-hit for by his nitwit brother (Ary Abittan, who gets the odd stray laugh), a cheapskate who drives a smelly clunker fueled by cooking oil—“just as if I was ’green,’” he asserts. For a little fake culture, the shameless screenwriters add art dealer Jacques (Eric Elmosnino), who backs into Alice’s high heels in the galleries and then sweeps her off her hobbled feet with the offer of a midnight drive: “I’ll show you the lights of Le Havre. It’s like a giant Kandinsky.”
Some of this could be forgiven with an irregular supply of laughs, but nearly all the potential wit in this exhausted resort scramble is smothered by strenuous clowning or a toxic dollop of middlebrow sap. Mistaking Jacques for her friends’ compensated decoy, Alice empties her suite’s minibar over a heart-to-heart with the admiring hotel maid (“You’re a real lady”) before they hit a local bar to rumba. There’s more mistaken identity, the on-the-rebound vulnerability of Jacques’s ex-wife and business partner, and an inadvertently stolen painting for further complications, but though the farce improves from god-awful to blandly mechanical in the final third, even a charitable drop of goodwill evaporates with the familiar Inappropriately Public Declaration of Monogamous Fealty staged before a crowd of applauding extras—made all the more superfluous by the two fated lovers being parted for all but about 10 minutes of screen time. Elsomino’s underdog swain is described as “a bit uncouth, but entrancing,” but Hôtel Normandy’s gloss is freeze-dried and soporific.