Directed by Daniele Thompson
2006 / Studio Canal
Quite often I’ll find my self talking to a group of people about how great a movie is. I’ll mention the amazingly complex plot that keeps you guessing, the wonderful acting, and the great camera work. I’ll talk about how the ending leaves you thinking about the picture for days and how the director is a genius. Eventually though I have to mention the masterpiece that I’m talking up is foreign and that means it has subtitles. The reactions I get are usually pretty discouraging. It’s like some people think a movie might give them cancer if it’s not in English. Recently, one person actually said to me, “Subtitles? Oh, that’s where you have to read along. I hate that.”
Don’t worry, Avenue Montaigne is not a movie I’m about to gush over. In fact, for a French film, it’s a pretty straight-forward affair. It centers around the life of Jessica, a woman in her twenties who recently broke up with her boyfriend and loves her elderly grandmother dearly. She travels to Paris and gets a job as a waitress, and it’s here that her life intersects with those of three other people.
Unfortunately, it’s here that the movie also loses most of it’s appeal.
If your idea of a good time is watching rich and famous people bitch, whine and complain about how crappy their lives are, then this film is for you. First, there’s the madly successful aging soap opera actress who is crying over the fact that the popularity of her television character is holding her back from truly great movie roles. Then, there’s the world famous concert pianist who is sick of stuffy suits and packed concert halls. He wants to throw away his career and live by the beach, but his manager/wife pushes him to continue along with his unhappy existence. Finally, there’s an old man who’s auctioning off a large art collection that he and his deceased wife amassed over the span of several decades. He’s actually not all that whiny, but his also quite successful son sure is.
I’m not anti-success and I certainly don’t think that having lots of money solves all of life’s problems, but the characters presented in this movie never once stop to be thankful for all they have or pause to reflect on how far they’ve come in life. They all walk around acting as if the world owes them something greater. I think I would have enjoyed the movie more if the characters were presented with greater depth instead of only as unhappy spoiled brats.
If you can look past my complaints about the flick, you’ll find a pretty heart-warming tale about Jessica’s life and her dedication to her grandmother waiting there for you to enjoy. You’ll probably laugh quite a bit at times, and feel really good about the ending. I, however, was left feeling that movie needed more ‘bite’ to it.
It was decent enough, but I kept hoping for something more complex and abnormal to occur. I found myself pining for Jessica to be placed in a dangerous situation, or for her grandmother to have some horrible accident, or for a baby grand to suddenly fall from the sky and land on the concert pianist’s head. I know I sound awful, but I guess the American movie watcher bottled up inside got the best of me.
In the end, subtitles don’t mean you’ll hate a movie, and they certainly don’t mean you’ll love a movie either, but please, don’t cheat yourself from experiencing something, good or bad, because you’re too lazy to read along.