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Mood Indigo
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by Jay Seaver

"There may be a good story under the quirk, but it's hard to find."
2 stars

I haven't seen every movie that Michel Gondry has made, but I'm reasonably confident that, barring some truly bizarre experimental shorts made early in his career, this is the Michel-Gondriest. While there are definite upsides to that, it also means that the film can be exhausting if you don't absolutely love it, and that's where I landed, fidgety and impatient by the end despite the American cut of the movie being a good half-hour shorter than I thought.

It follows Colin (Romain Duris) and Chloe (Audrey Tautou), who meet at a party and fall in love, to eventually get married, although events on the honeymoon set the stage for less happy times. Anther couple of lesser note is Nicolas (Omar Sy), said to be Colin's lawyer and adviser but mostly seen doing the work of a servant, and Isis (Charlotte Le Bon), who threw the party where the first two met; there's also Chick (Gad Elmaleh), Colin's best friend and devotee of author Jean-So Partre (Philippe Torreton), and Alise (Aïssa Maïga), Nicholas's niece.

To say that Colin and Chloe meet at this party makes it sound like something much more exciting than it is. They are pointed at each other by Nicolas and Chloe and just sort of fall in together. There are cute moments and whimsy to the set-up, but it's emblematic of the rest of the movie that Colin and Chloe don't actually do anything. Nobody does much throughout the entire movie except Nicolas, who does so many types of things with so little apparent effort that it barely registers beyond a running joke. People will declare their love and devotion quite earnestly in exchanges that the audience has heard many times before, but they seldom show it in an individual way or even have personality traits that can be seen to connect with each other.

As such, the cast does what they can with what they're given. Audrey Tautou has built a career out of playing this sort of elfin, quirky character, and while Chloe is no Amelie Poulain, she's at least enjoyable to watch in the part. Romain Duris plays the manic one, and it's rather overdone much of the time, but still energetic enough to enjoy. Omar Sy charms the heck out of the viewer in just about every scene he's in. Gad Elmaleh hits his target as the obsessive Chick, but it's not an interesting one. Aïssa Maïga and especially Charlotte Le Bon are sadly underused, especially the latter; Isis is a real nothing in this movie.

They're constantly upstaged by the nutty environment, which isn't the harshest critique you can give them: Pretty much every minute of this movie has some bit of animation, design, or whimsy that can impress the audience or elicit a grin on its own - there's the strange devices that Colin events, a mouse in the apartment played by a man in a Halloween costume, and Gondry's retro visualizations of things like a printing press or a search network are delightful. The "one every minute" estimate may be understating it, though, and there's not exactly a cohesive logic that holds these things together. It often feels like Gondry has taken every weird idea he hasn't had a place for in the past decade and poured it into this film until it was full, and sometimes even when the idea itself is amusing, one just wishes he'd get to the point.

If there's a point to get to. During much of the first act, I was mentally pegging the silliness as unreality as a sort of representation of the lives of the likes of Colin, who apparently lives off a trust fund - everything is easy and a source of amusement in this fantasy world until real hardship enters his life, at which point the tone of the movie would change. And while this does happen, it's mostly a change to new eccentricity as opposed to feeling like Colin suddenly needs to have his feet on the ground, or the world becoming dark and scary beyond the characters' abilities to comprehend. When things of some consequence do happen, they're random, abrubt, and unsatisfying, even as tragedy.

Maybe that isn't be the case in the original cut, and I'd be curious to see if an extra half-hour or so lets the weirdness breathe and fleshes out the characters. I don't enjoy sitting through a movie with so much to recommend it, one fairly bursting with creativity, feeling little more than worn out.

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originally posted: 08/17/14 00:49:30
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2013 Fantastic Fest For more in the 2013 Fantastic Fest series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Chicago Critics Film Festival For more in the 2014 Chicago Critics Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Sarasota Film Festival For more in the 2014 Sarasota Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2014 Independent Film Festival Boston For more in the 2014 Independent Film Festival Boston series, click here.

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  18-Jul-2014 (PG-13)
  DVD: 04-Nov-2014


  DVD: 04-Nov-2014

Directed by
  Michel Gondry

Written by
  Michel Gondry
  Luc Bossi

  Romain Duris
  Audrey Tautou
  Gad Elmaleh
  Omar Sy
  Assa Maga
  Charlotte Le Bon

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