Thursday, May 9, 2013


It's hard to imagine what chits director Sophie Lellouche had to call in to get Woody Allen to lend his voice and, for the briefest of scenes at the end, his presence to the witless, charmless and wafer-thin French romcom "Paris-Manhattan," which takes place entirely in Paris and not at all in Manhattan.

Alice Taglioni, which sounds like something that should be stuffed with ricotta and served in a brown butter sage sauce, plays Alice, an unmarried (to her mother's chagrin) thirtysomething pharmacist who works at her father's shop and spends her nights watching Woody Allen DVDs and conversing with a poster of Woody in a Rodinesque pose. Men look right past Alice, the first of many implausibilities in that Taglioni is quite comely, certainly an order of magnitude prettier than the married attorney sister who spends half her time plotting with Mom to set Alice up.

Eventually, Alice begins seeing a financier named Vincent (Yannick Soulier), but we can tell she's destined for Victor (Patrick Bruel), the alarm installer who rigs up Dad's pharmacy with a preposterous contraption that sprays chloroform thirty seconds after activation. You begin to wonder what planet the movie takes place on. At one point, an armed robber holds up the shop, inciting Victor to preemptive action, but Alice shoos the gunman to safety, handing him copies of "Manhattan Murder Mystery" and "Husbands and Wives" to borrow: "Bring them back when you're finished." The scene is too fruity and fey even for the French.

For a woman so obsessed with Allen, Alice talks about him in trite generalities, offering no lines or scenes from his films to support her strident declamations and unfunny bon mots. The movie as a whole both overrelies on Woody's persona and underuses his oeuvre, showing only the famous scene from "Hannah and Her Sisters" - set to Handel's Hallelujah Chorus - in which his Mickey learns the brain tumor on his CT scan was just a smudge.

"Paris-Manhattan" is pretty close to a one-star picture; the extra half-star is a tip of the hat to Lellouche for bringing it in in eighty minutes. By the end of this redeemed favor of a project, you'll be reminded of the old joke about the starlet who casting-couches her way onto a series that tanks: "Who do you have to fuck to get off this show?"

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