For the third in the series of successful Coeur des Hommes films, director Marc Esposito has tried to give a contemporary feel and breath new life into the tale of the lives and loves of four middle-aged Parisian friends by replacing Jeff (Gerard Darmon) with Jean (Eric Elmosnino), a single-father struggling to bring up his four-year-old daughter. But the ploy fails to bring anything fresh to the format which struggles to move the story on from the previous two outings.
It seems nothing significant has happened in the lives of the original band of three – Alex (Marc Lavoine), Manu (Jean-Pierre Darroussin) and Antoine (Bernard Campan). They have certainly grown older but no wiser and the conversation revolves as always around women, love and sex, though not always in that order. Along comes 40-something Jean, who is single and enjoys a stream of affairs with young, attractive women. Surprisingly, he willingly joins his new friends in their habitual round of family gatherings, male-bonding weekends on the coast and boozy nights in with the boys. He is soon eager to slip the bonds of fatherhood to make the most of his new life.
Le Coeur des Hommes 3 resembles a gallic Sex and The City with the four female BFFs replaced by their male counterparts and the backdrop of New York’s trendy bars and cafes substituted with cosy French cafes and restaurants. But whereas SATC explored female relationships and those between members of the opposite sex, this film focuses on the behaviour of what appears to be a giggling, sniggering band of adolescent boys. The four male leads display an attitude towards women that is outdated, insensitive and openly misogynistic while the women who are unfortunate enough to have relationships with these men are seen as weak, manipulative, hapless creatures who can only gaze hopelessly at the display of chest-beating machismo.
These characters are in desperate need of a reality check. Middle-aged men attracting younger women like bees around a honey pot smacks more of male fantasy than real life. The original trio of actors skilfully go through their paces while Elmosnino plays catch-up. He is a hugely talented actor who was highly praised for his performance as French singer Serge Gainsbourg in Gainsbourg: A heroic life and his role here sits at odds with his previous work.
It has been ten years since Esposito directed the first Le Coeur des Hommes film. Like its characters, these films have failed to move with the times and it’s to be hoped they will now go into early retirement. In French cinemas: 23/10/2013