Dir: Daniele Thompson. France-UK. 2002. 91mins.
There could be no more marketable French film than Jet Lag (Decalage Horaire), Daniele Thompson's romantic comedy starring Juliette Binoche and Jean Reno. First of all, it is a classic formulaic romantic comedy with none of the introspection or intense drama traditionally associated with French relationship pictures. Second, it is a shameless vehicle for France's two most exportable stars who between them have appeared in more US movies than any other local actor. And third, the packaging of the film - from its colourful song-filled soundtrack by Eric Serra to its lavish location shoots - is more reminiscent of a Meg Ryan movie than anything starring Isabelle Huppert.
Critics pooh-poohed it at the Toronto International Film Festival where it had its world premiere recently (it also close San Sebastian this weekend), but then again, apart from the fact that it's in French, it's hardly a suitable festival title. Jet Lag is a slick, calculating mainstream movie which survives because of the giant screen presence of its stars, and it should be applauded for its polished stab at a formula perfected by - but not exclusive to - Hollywood movie-makers. Like Working Title has done with its smart brand of UK hits, this Alain Sarde/StudioCanal production should achieve instant local box office success while easily crossing over to other countries. Bac releases it in France on Oct 30.
It was no surprise after its phenomenal success with another broad French movie The Closet that Miramax Films snapped up US rights to Jet Lag immediately after its Toronto screening. Smaller countries might struggle to release a French movie with little support from highbrow critics, but audiences will nevertheless respond to the Binoche-Reno partnership.
Binoche especially has never before shown such megawatt movie star charisma. Director Thompson lingers on her flawless beauty and her vulnerable eyes with the confidence that Binoche can stand up to the scrutiny, which of course she can. The Oscar-winner exudes vulnerability as Rose, a low-class beautician who has finally decided to leave her abusive boyfriend (Sergi Lopez in a cameo role) and take a job in Acapulco. At Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris, she is stranded like thousands of other travellers by a transport union strike and finds herself borrowing the cellular phone of Felix (Jean Reno), a famous French chef who lives in the US and is laid over in Paris on his way to Munich.
The two inadvertently bump into each other several times as they wait for news of their flights. He discovers about her situation and gradually she finds out that he is going to Munich to the funeral of his ex-girlfriend's grandmother in an attempt to win her back. As the delays drag on, he invites her to share his room at the hotel he is being put up in. Naturally, the night will change their lives forever.
The daughter of Gerard Oury, a prolific screenwriter and the director of only one previous film La Buche, Thompson wisely relies on the chemistry of her stars to buoy the perfunctory story and screenplay she co-wrote with her son Christopher.
Reno is as charismatic as ever, but the film belongs to Binoche, who proves that, for her lively comic talents, there is life after Chocolat.
Prod cos: Les Films Alain Sarde, TF1 Films Production, Pathe (Jet Lag) Ltd
Fr dist: Bac
Int'l sales: StudioCanal
Prod: Alain Sarde
Scr: Daniele Thompson, Christopher Thompson
Cinematography: Patrick Blossier
Prod des: Michele Abbe
Ed: Sylvie Landra
Music: Eric Serra
Main cast: Juliette Binoche, Jean Reno, Sergi Lopez