Billed as a romantic comedy, Emmanuel Mouret’s Caprice struggles to fit the description. True, love is the motor that drives the tangled relationships between the four leading characters, but any comedy is distinctly thin on the ground. Hopes Caprice will be an entertaining, American-style look at love among the Parisian middle class are raised by the opening scene of Mouret with his young son in a Parisian park in springtime with an upbeat, jazzy piano soundtrack. Unfortunately these hopes are soon dashed as the film descends into familiar territory for Mouret who excels at playing the good-hearted, naïve Don Juan pulled unwittingly into situations not of his own making. Comparisons to Woody Allen spring to mind, but Mouret’s film has none of Allen’s wit or charm. The characters are wooden and the dialogue, stilted and over worked leaving the impression Mouret is trying too hard. What worked in 2011’s L”Art d’Aimer (The Art of Love), and earned Mouret the prize for best screenplay at the Montreal World Film Festival the same year, is now starting to look like a tired formula that is past its sell-by date.
Emmanuel (Mouret), a primary school teacher, is a huge fan of Alicia (Virginie Efira), an actress whose theatrical performances he never misses. By chance, he is offered a job as a private tutor to Alicia’s nephew and gradually he summons up the courage to ask her out to dinner. Events snowball and Emmanuel is soon moving into Alicia’s apartment. The two seem to lead a perfect life much to the disappointment of Emmanuel’s best friend Thomas (Laurent Stocker of La Comédie Française) who has also fallen for the actress. The only complication for the couple lies in Emmanuel’s relationship with Caprice (Anais Desmoustier) a young woman he met at the theatre during one of Alicia’s plays. She is also an aspiring young actress and is prepared to go to great lengths to make Emmanuel to fall in love with her. Alicia or Caprice, who is the real love of Emmanuel’s life?
Allen is a master at creating engageing, intelligent female characters who strike a chord wtih an audience. In comparison, Mouret has difficulty creating likeable, three-dimensional, woman. Alicia is pretty, but dull. Efira, who displayed her comic talent to great effect in David Moreau’s 20 Ans d’Ecart
(It Boy) opposite Pierre Niney, is uninspiring and flat in a role that is so central to the storyline. Dressed to perfection, she embodies celebrity glamour and style, but is disappointingly empty and vacant. Desmoustier is currently one of France’s most prolific young actors. She has appeared in nine films over the past two years working with directors such as Betrand Tavernier (Quai d’Orsay
) and Francois Ozon (Une Nouvelle Amie, The New Girlfriend
). She exudes wide-eyed innocence, a trait which serves her well as Caprice, who would actually be better named Malice. It’s difficult to decide who is the more irritating in this couple – Emmanuel with his inability to say ‘no’ or Caprice whose lies and machinations become more and more annoying. Stocker provides a welcome note of normality as the lovelorn Thomas. He was hilarious in Jérôme Cornuau,’s Chic
with Fanny Ardent and it’s shame his comic ability is not put to better use here. For all its musings on the nature of love and relationships, Caprice
fails to provide a clear answer.