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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look: 11.11%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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My Wife is an Actress
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by Andrew Howe

"I wish."
3 stars

If the love of your life exposed her naked body to the public at large and performed simulated sex for material gain you’d probably be filing for divorce. Unless, of course, your wife is an actress, in which case you’d take solace in the fact that it’s only make-believe. That’s what Yvan (Yvan Attal) likes to tells himself, until his wife Charlotte (Charlotte Gainsbourg) heads to London to make a film with a known Lothario (Terence Stamp). Paranoia takes root in the intense but likeable Yvan, opening the way for an amusing and unexpectedly insightful examination of sexual jealousy, resentment and the fine line between passion and pretence.

Attal has some eighteen performances to his credit, but Ma Femme est une Actrice marks his debut as writer and director. It’s an affable affair, but the tone is closer to High Fidelity than Sleepless in Seattle – crafting a sugary slab of wish-fulfilment is the last thing on Attal’s mind, a fact that becomes apparent from the moment Yvan opens his mouth.

We all know someone like Yvan – he’s a decent man with a good heart, but his insistence on speaking his mind regularly steers him into some tactless and abrasive territory. He’s a quick-witted and loyal companion, but you’ll always be watching him out of the corner of your eye, never sure when a stray comment might spark an embarrassing display of his hot-blooded European temper. Since Attal wrote the role for himself it’s no surprise it fits him like a glove, and it’s a testament to his screen presence that Yvan never loses our support, even when he’s behaving like a child who’s yet to learn that throwing a tantrum won’t improve his chances of getting what he wants.

It’s not hard to understand why Charlotte might be attracted to such a man, though what he sees in her is difficult to determine. Yvan’s livewire persona sees her come off as somewhat bland by comparison, but Gainsbourg (who is Attal's real-life partner) does her best with a role that doesn't leave her much room to move. Stamp, on the other hand, has a whale of a time sending himself up – his pretentious, vain and charming manner provides a pleasing contrast to Yvan’s rough-and-ready demeanour, and the initial meeting between the two is one of the high points of the film (you sympathise with Yvan, but Stamp’s perfectly British civility in the face of Yvan’s sniping is strangely endearing).

The comedic element is pleasantly restrained – French films often labour under a pratfall quota, but Attal is more concerned with crafting intelligent and knowing dialogue (though he does take his foot off the brake with a mildly amusing set-piece that reminds us of the European penchant for matter-of-fact nudity). However, it’s the dramatic elements that nail the film home, as Yvan wrestles with his perceived “ownership” of Charlotte’s body and disintegrating self-esteem in the face of her growing popularity, while debating whether returning the favour is an appropriate response to suspected infidelity.

You won’t be blown away by Attal’s observations, but it’s a cut above what passes for insight in most relationship-oriented comedies (the suggestion that Yvan’s suspicions are a self-fulfilling prophecy is an intriguing concept). The final ten minutes are at odds with the zero tolerance policy for formulaic schmaltz he adopts for the rest of the film, but thankfully the closing scene makes up for this aberration.

Ma Femme est une Actrice is a notch above the light-hearted fluff that pollutes the genre, partnering memorable performances from Attal and Stamp with an intelligent script that doles out humour and insight in equal proportions. It’s an entertaining ninety minutes, and the perfect antidote to whatever hackneyed Hollywood romantic comedy is playing in the cinema across the hall.

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originally posted: 04/27/02 15:16:21
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User Comments

3/13/05 ray turned me on. i'm now into swinging. 5 stars
9/29/02 Peter Sherlock Some good moments but doesn't get too deeply into the subject (as it claims to do) 3 stars
4/27/02 Dom Corleone pretty good 4 stars
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