Happily Ever After (2004)

 “Don’t start in with that stupid romantic paradigm.”

The French film Happily Ever After  (Ils Se Marienent et Eurent Beaucoup d’Enfants) explores the ambiguity of human relationships through several couples and asks the eternal question: “is there love after marriage?” Car salesman Vincent (Yvan Attal) is married to real estate agent Gabrielle (Charlotte Gainsbourg). To Vincent’s friends and workmates, Fred and Georges, Vincent’s marriage looks enviable. Gabrielle is attractive, quiet, and nice. In theory, Vincent should be a happy and contented married man.

Georges is married to feminist Nathalie (Emmanuelle Seigner), and their explosive relationship often results in noisy fights. Both Vincent and Georges (Alain Chabot) envy their single friend, Fred (Alain Cohen)–a man whose bedroom hosts an ever-rotating line of women. Georges feels that it’s a dilemma for men to chose “one woman or all the others.”

Gabrielle begins to suspect that Vincent has a mistress, and as she’s trying to deal with conflicting emotions, temptation arrives in the form of an attractive stranger (Johnny Depp).

Happily Ever After glances at the lives of its characters but fails to produce much interest in their actions. Instead of adding some gritty confrontational scenes, the film slides into sentimentality, coincidence and silliness at several crucial moments. In one scene, Vincent’s aging parents (Claude Berri and Anouk Aimee) eat at a restaurant to the background of the film’s theme music. Yes, they’ve been married for a long time, but so what? In another scene, Vincent and Gabrielle indulge in a preposterous food fight. Gabrielle is willing to indulge Vincent in his ritual foreplay–whereas Vincent’s mistress expects a little better treatment. But this wise observation leads us nowhere. The film’s sweeping view of the various relationships in the film–while stressing ambiguity–leaves the viewer with a sense of indifference. Yvan Attal (who also directs the film) is married to Charlotte Gainsbourg in real life. In French with English subtitles.

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Filed under Comedy, France

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