Having received Russian Dolls in the mail over a week ago, I continued to push back watching it. After all, being a 24-year old guy, a foreign language romantic comedy was not necessarily on the top of my list. One thing I learned - don't underestimate the French!
They brought us Freedom Fries, they gave us the word rendezvous, and also Amelie... and now we have Russian Dolls, a not-perfect but still highly enjoyable romantic comedy-drama of sorts.
Russian Dolls, or Les Poupées russes as one might like to call it if you can speak French and pronounce the words adequately, stars Romain Duris as Xavier Rousseau, a slightly goofy-looking albeit handsome guy whose life is full of meaningless relationships. Always looking for the perfect woman, he starts searching for his dream girl as soon as he meets the next girl, which, needless to say, is cause for a rift in many of his relationships. He is still good friends with his ex-girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tautou), and one might think they are right for one another - but they're not. He goes through a variety of other women before finally landing on Wendy (Kelly Reilly), an attractive Brit who understands him better than anyone - though his eye continues to wander. Can he settle down, or will he continue to look for the rest of his life?
A sequel to a movie I have neither seen nor ever heard of, L'Auberge espagnole, Russian Dolls is a quasi-realistic look at life and love when you're 30, although that realism is sure skewed by some crazy French directing which adds to the appeal of the film. Xavier, who knows his life sucks, often sees himself in duplicates whistling away on a flute as he feeds someone bullshit, and he pictures scenarios in his head - and to the camera - that he plays out but never performs. Director Cédric Klapisch uses some risky, loud music to piece all of his sequences together, but the risk pays off - the presentation is a very intriguing and slick one.
For those women looking for a good romantic film, Russian Dolls may not be the film you're looking for. It's a very good movie and avoids cheesiness in every way or form, but in its success is also its failure to appeal to a mainstream female audience. After all, the lead character only learns from his mistakes after he's committed them several times over, and the movie is not about one up-and-down relationship with the same woman. There is not necessarily a heartwarming feel to the movie, although Klapisch certainly makes things tense at the end as you wonder whether Xavier could end up with the woman he was meant for - but who still isn't the woman of his dreams.
Nevertheless, Russian Dolls has its appeal - it's just different from most romantic comedies out there. A single romance is not the core focus of the film, and instead it is about a man's character, life and the various women in his life. It's actually quite refreshing.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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