Based on the novel by American author Stephen McCauley, Brice Cauvin’s second full-length feature is a flat, lifeless tale of a dysfunctional family which centres on each member’s inability to conduct a meaningful, loving adult relationship. Originally set in Boston, McCauley’s novel has not travelled well across the Atlantic. When you take a story that questions the compromises needed to keep relationships alive and set it in a country noted for its musings on life, love and the meaning of everything, there are going to be casualties. American critics praised The Easy Way Out for its portrayal of the ‘comedy of modern life’. Any such humour is sadly missing from Cauvin’s film which takes itself and the subject matter far too seriously. Comparisons have been made to Woody Allen, but Cauvin’s film lacks Allen’s talent for self mockery and his highly-tuned sense of the absurd.
Antoine (Laurent Lafitte) and his two brothers Louis (Nicolas Bedos) and Gérard (Benjamin Biolay) are all in long-term relationships that have hit a bump in the road. Antoine lives with his lover Adar (Bruno Putzulu) but is sexually attracted to the artist Alexis (Albert Igual). Louis has just become engaged to Julie (Elodie Frégé) but has fallen madly in love with Mathilde (Irène Jacob) while Gérard is separated from his wife Hélène (Judith El Zein) but still sees her as the love of his life despite his attraction to Adèle (Agnès Jaoui). Overseeing these train crash relationships are mum (Marie-Christine Barrault) and dad (Guy Marchand) whose marriage also seems to have run its course. The story is told through Antoine who tries to help his brothers face up to reality while seemingly unable to face the truth about his feelings for Adar .
Without the talented Lafitte, from La Comédie Française, as Antoine, L’Art de la Fugue
would soon run out of steam. He was excellent opposite Sandrine Kiberlain in last year’s Elle l’Adore
and the recently released highly amusing comedy Papa et Maman
is doing a storm at the French box-office, But he has his work cut out here. He is surrounded by bunch of despicable and self-absorbed characters who operate on the level of over-indulged children making it impossible to sympathise with any one individual. Even Antoine’s lack of self-awarenes eventually becomes irritating and hard to watch. L’Art de la Fugue
is a good example of what works on paper does not always translate successfully to the big screen.