An author of cheesy photo-novels (i.e., magazines that tell modern fairy tales through photos embellished with dialogue) and her demure musician sister both search for Mr. Right in Julie Lopes-Curval’s Toi et Moi, a brisk but one-note comedy that finds little to say about love except that it’s never as easy as it appears in melodramatic fiction. Ariane (Julie Depardieu) uses her own life as inspiration for the florid stories she concocts for the titular newsstand publication. Wishful projections of her happily-ever-after dreams, Ariane’s writing centers around women finding paradise in the arms of a kind, wealthy stranger, though her reality with commitment-phobic boyfriend Farid (Tomer Sisley) and Spanish construction worker suitor Pablo (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) is a far cry from such fantasies. Meanwhile, her sibling Lena (Marion Cotillard), a professional cellist who plays with technical proficiency but little passion, is stuck in a similar amorous rut, living with monotonous boyfriend François (Eric Berger) while secretly pining for fiery violin soloist Mark (Jonathan Zaccaï). Decorating her film with vibrant photo-novel tableaus that ironically comment upon her depressed protagonists’ less-than-ideal relationships, Lopes-Curval never fully marries her romantic and comedic impulses, awkwardly flip-flopping between somber lovers’ quarrels and campy farce in a vain attempt to strike a simultaneously adorable-yet-poignant tone. Too reserved to be funny and too trivial to be moving, Toi et Moi plods along with stolid competence, dutifully dotting its heart-shaped I’s and crossing its too-cute T’s while failing to bestow on its shenanigans the full-bodied heat or self-reflexive playfulness of Pedro Almodóvar’s thematically analogous The Flower of My Secret. Depardieu and Cotillard’s agile yin-yang performances are significantly more modulated than their characters’ up-and-down narrative arcs, often providing a measure of sweet sincerity that’s otherwise lacking from Lopes-Curval’s uneven screenplay. Yet from its counterfeit bittersweet finale to its forcing Ariane to accidentally walk into a glass door (a gag that’s by now surely run its course), Toi et Moi’s life-imitates-art-imitates-life story only resembles every other middling Parisian rom-com.
Score:Cast: Marion Cotillard, Julie Depardieu, Jonathan Zaccaï, Eric Berger, Sergio Peris-Mencheta, Tomer Sisley Director: Julie Lopes-Curval Screenwriter: Julie Lopes-Curval, Sophie Hiet Distributor: Pyramide Distribution Running Time: 94 min Rating: NR Year: 2006 Buy: Video