Jean Dujardin is one of France’s most bankable and popular comic actors. From his Oscar-winning performance in The Artist, which gained him entry to Hollywood’s George Clooney-led A-list, to the recent crowd-pleasing Un Plus Une, he often chooses films which play up his cheeky, boyish charm. Un Homme à la Hauteur is no exception and his performance is one of the few high points in an otherwise cringe-worthy romantic comedy which falls wide of the mark on so many levels. Based on the Argentinian box-office hit Corazon de Leon directed by Marcos Carnevale, Tirard’s film casts Dujardin as Alexandre, a Little Person who falls in love with a taller woman. While the film laudibly tackles the issue of physical attraction to someone who falls outside society’s romantic norm, it does so at the expense of visual and verbal gags centred on Alexandre’s size. Tirard swings between sympathy for Alexandre as he invests in a relationship he fears is destined to fail and slapstick comedy in the scenes where he sits awkwardly in oversize chairs or is flattened to the ground by the huge family pet dog. It’s uncomfortable to watch and even harder to pick out the humour.
Diane, (Virgine Efira) is in the death throes of an unhappy marriage. After a stormy row with her ex, she leaves her telephone behind in a restaurant . That evening she receives a telephone call from Alexandre who has found the telephone and wants to return it to its rightful owner. During the flirty conversation that follows, the two agree to meet to make the exchange. But Alexandre is not quite the dark, handsome prince Diane always hoped would sweep her off her feet.
One of the main difficulties with Tirard’s film lies in the special effects which transform Dujardin into a man measuring just 1m40. When Dujardin and Efira are standing together on screen, the proportions are all wrong. It’s even worse in close-up. And Tirard’s film is oddly chaste for a French romantic comedy with smooching limited to a strict minimum and a bedroom scene which soon cuts away to the morning after. As for the spark which ignites the romance between the ill-matched couple, this too is strangely elusive. Alexandre and Diane act more like an old married couple than two people in those heady first fews weeks of a passionate love affair. Efira does a fair amount of pensive bottom-lip chewing. But the real issue of whether she can overcome the judgement of others and continue her relationship with Alexandre is never fully explored. Dujardin maintains his dignity throughout but it’s a close call.