Director Eric Lavaine’s L’Embarras du Choix is a formulaic romantic comedy more at home on the small screen than deserving of the full cinema treatment. It follows the box-office success of Lavaine’s last stint in the director’s chair, Retour Chez Ma Mere, and redrafts the same lead actress Alexandre Lamy. L’Embarras du Choix sits neatly alongside Retour Chez Ma Mere in it’s choice of subject matter. The latter followed the problems faced by a forty-something woman after she loses her job as an architect. In the former, the forty-something woman is fully employed but lacking a life partner. The problem is not the dearth of available men, but Juliette’s inability to make decisions so when two highly suitable men both show an interest, chaos ensues. There are so many inconsistancies in the plot, it’s difficult to get on board with Juliette’s dilemma. Her indecision is not an existentiel musing on the nature of love, or the futility of life, but an irritating character flaw that not only prevents her from chosing a husband but also a meal in a restaurant or even the clothes she wears. Once the groundwork is established, there’s really no place for the film to go and it’s a slow, painful crawl towards the inevitable denouement.
Juliette (Lamy) works as a book-keeper in her father’s restaurant in the centre of Paris. As she is incapable of making decisions, she allows her father to make most of them for her. Her best friends Joelle (Anne Marivin) and Sonia (Sabrina Ouazani) are there to pick up the pieces when things go wrong but even they balk at choosing her a husband. Will it be the charming chef Etienne (Arnaud Ducret) or Scottish businessman Paul (Jamie Bamber) who eventually wins Juliette’s hand?
All three main actors are better known for their television work. Lamy partnered Jean Dujardin in the hugely popular TV series Un Gars, Une Fille, while Ducret had a regular slot in the TV comedy Parents Mode d’Emploi and Bamber has appeared in the US series Battlestar Galatica. Could this be the reason for the film’s ‘made for TV’ feel? Levaine’s 2014 hit Barbecue had a star cast headed by Lambert Wilson while Retour Chez Ma Mere boasted an excellent comic turn by Josiane Balasko. But there’s nothing here to make this film stand out from the crowd.