Les Chaises Musicales – Marie Belhomme

UnknownMarie Belhomme relies solely on the charm of her leading lady, Isabelle Carré, to carry this bittersweet comedy about a lost soul looking for love. It’s a tall order even for someone as experienced as Carré, especially with a plot which has the audience galloping ahead to the punchline way ahead of everyone else.  And Carré’s charm is decidedly shortlived.  There is limited comic appeal in watching her stumbling from one situation to another learning nothing along the way whether it’s entertaining old folks dressed as a banana or leading a conga line disguised as a green pea.  Adults dressed in silly costumes may be funny once, possibly twice, but anymore and it’s starts to look like a comedy which has run out of ideas.

Even by romantic comedy standards, the storyline is tissue-paper thin – the meet-cute happens when Perrine (Carré) a gauche, timid woman in her late thirties causes an accident which plunges a complete stranger Fabrice (Philippe Rebbot ) into a coma.  Wracked by guilt, she tries to make amends by visiting him in hospital everyday in the hope he will eventually regain consciousness. Along the way, she moves into his apartment, takes his old job and becomes friends with his young son. So far so good. But what will happen if, and when, Fabrice comes out of the coma?
It’s not unusual for romantic comedies to play fast and loose with plausibility, but Belhomme comes close to overplaying her hand.  Perrine is likeable enough and it’s easy to identify with her lack of social skills yet these are not the only reasons she is alone and unhappy. She has clearly made the wrong career choice for someone who is neither musically talented nor outgoing enough to be in the entertainment business.  Fortunately she is surrounded by a bunch of gullible characters who don’t ask too many questions in their desire to give a helping hand.  It’s a shame a film which deals with a woman undergoing a renaissance after overcoming her social fears is so uninspiring.  Instead of a strong leading character, Perrine is little more than an overgrown child who relies on others to decide how she should run her life.  Similar territory was explored to great success in Jon Turtletaub’s 1995 box office hit While you were Sleeping with Sandra Bullock and Bill Pullman. Belhomme’s film is not in the same league.

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