The film creates an almost dreamlike atmosphere where characters pop in and out of each other’s lives. It is easy to compare the character connections to a Robert Altman film, but there is something else at work here.
Imagine being at the epicenter of cultural and artistic expression, conversing with celebrities and intellectuals, and being the first to preview stage productions and beautiful works of art. Now, add the fact that you don’t have a place to sleep and have only one change of clothes.
This is the situation our protagonist, Jessica (Cecile De France), has landed herself in in the French film Avenue Montaigne, directed by Daniele Thompson. She has come to Paris to both fall in love and to lead a life more exciting than the one she left behind in her small town of Macon. Jessica talks her way into a job at a small restaurant called Bar des Theatres, which is located in the middle of several prominent entertainment venues.
Jessica’s story quickly intertwines with several artistic types who have all descended upon this small strip in downtown Paris for the same three days. Jessica first encounters Jean-Francois (Albert Dupontel), a famous concert pianist who can no longer handle the celebrity and pressure that comes with his amazing talent. Jessica also gets to meet one of her favorite soap opera actresses Catherine Versen (Valerie Lemercier) who is starring in a play across from the restaurant. Not only is Catherine selfish and demanding, she is also extremely desperate to leave her soap role, though they are paying her an amount that would have put the stars of Friends to shame.
Jessica also meets father and son Jacques Grumberg (Claude Brasseur) and Frederic Grumberg (Christopher Thompson, co-writer and son of the director). Jacques has decided to auction off the collection of art that he has amassed over several decades. Frederic, a university professor who has a very strained relationship with his father, has come to see the pieces for one last time.
The team of Thompson and Thompson has created an ideal world where sheer luck and circumstance help people float through what would otherwise be life-altering events and decisions. This is not to say the film is shallow or poorly written. The dialogue is witty and sharp, especially when spoken by true comic actors like Lemercier in easily the film’s most engaging and hilarious role. There is also just enough of a sense of humility shown by the characters, allowing the audience to identify with each of them.
The film creates an almost dreamlike atmosphere where characters pop in and out of each other’s lives. It is easy to compare the character connections to a Robert Altman film, but there is something else at work here. Thompson breaks every interaction into a small vignette, a mini-story within the main plot, which breathes life into the characters and the world they inhabit. | Matthew F. Newlin