Bringing you honest reviews of recent releases
Xavier is in a spot of bother.
His girlfriend has decided she wants a break, and moves to New York with his children. Xavier moves to New York too so he can be closer to them.
But as well as this, he is also the father of his lesbian friend’s baby.
And needs to marry a Chinese woman immediately for legal reasons.
Life is just a little too complicated sometimes..
Romain Duris – Xavier Rousseau
Audrey Tautou – Martine
Cécile De France – Isabelle
Kelly Reilly – Wendy
Sandrine Holt – Ju
This was my reaction to everything, everyone, at all times.
This movie was shocking, it really was. Displayed like some awful sitcom, it consisted of the type of characters and situations you’d see in a crap TV show who actually end up annoying the viewer rather than evoking sympathy from them.
A lesbian couple who get their straight male friend to donate sperm to them so they can parent a baby, a single spinster who feels strongly toward her male friend but doesn’t know how to tell him, a handful of lively children, and not to mention most of the scenes between these characters take place in marble kitchen countered studio flats. It is all so fucking cliché its stupid – and incredibly unenjoyable.
I was hoping for a sweet little rom-com. What I got was the sixth worst movie of this year; from the opening scene through to the uneventful ending I felt tedious. Agitated and restless, it was almost unbearable. Chinese Puzzle was like a Poundland equivalent of Love Actually. At one point, Martine turns to Xavier and opens up to him about them both being single and how different their lives used to be together.
“I don’t care” I thought to myself, staring at the ceiling. “I just don’t care”.
I used to live in France myself, so I have first-hand experience of their sense of humour. It is not overly great. If I learned one thing about the French when I was out there, it was that they are of two traits: Impatient. Serious.
However laid back and cultured they are, the French just can’t quite pass for being hilarious – of course they have their own versions of stand-up comedians and actors, but they don’t come close to the skills of American or British celebrities. Chinese Puzzle proved this. Performed by any other culture this movie may have been hilarious, but it was the fact the French are usually so serious and stern which made it not as effective as it could have been.
In fact, I found myself rolling my eyes whenever Xavier delivered a ‘funny’ line – because it didn’t feel funny, it didn’t have the desired impact it could have.
I would like to state that I am not Frenchist, Foreignist or any other ‘ist. When I comment on the personality of the French, I am making an honest observation confirmed by personal face-to-face experience. What can I say – they’re just not as funny as us.
Chinese Puzzle had a great habit of extracting issues faced by people in real life and splatting them on screen for a few minutes, before moving on to the next..
The movie seemed to be about this young man Xavier and his broken relationship with girlfriend Wendy. There were even scenes between him and Wendy’s new beau (who happens to be a six foot American hunk who towers over Xavier), which focused on more intensley would have made for an entertaining farce of a movie.
But no. Xavier meets the man – then suddenly we were thrown into a scene where lesbian Isabelle is shagging her nanny. Yes – nanny.
The movie then focuses briefly on how she and the nanny fall in love, before jumping to Martine and her son’s loose existance, then jumping to a scene where Xavier’s emotional son realises he has a half-sister – via a lesbian…
This movie became a confused, mangled car crash of a sitcom in which seperate stories fit for having their own individual full-length movie were chucked together half-heartedly, with the hopes of making the audience laugh.
And this was exactly the problem; if a director used the farcical scenarios of Xavier’s relationship with Wendy and created a film solely on this, that film may have passed for funny. Same with the lesbian – if a movie was created around this character, focusing on her being inseminated, having the baby, and trying to balance life with Ju as well as the babysitter, then hey – this may have been fun.
But no – Cédric Klapisch made the massive mistake of sewing all these things together, giving each story a minute or so on screen here and there, and fucking the whole thing up.
In the end, it was all so messy it became a headache.
Poor Kelly Reilly, being cast in a movie like this.
When I first noticed she was part of the cast, I did wonder how she’d get on, up against the French. I did wonder if she’d display some bilingual skill. Throughout the movie, Wendy speaks in English. Even when conversing with Xavier. It’s strange, because conversations between the pair saw him speaking in French – her responding in English.
It was bizarre to watch; a man having a conversation in French and his partner responding in English. He did actually give in a few times and speak in English also, but by this point I think I was reading BBC news on my mobile phone, I was that captivated..
Toward the end of the movie, Wendy is sat on a bench between Isabelle and Martine; Martine delivers a line and she responds in French.
I was slightly surprised, because this was the first time Kelly had uttered a word of foreign. During the whole movie the girl seems to take part in conversations with the French by responding in English, then suddenly pipes up at the end.
Not that I actually give a fuck of course, but this odd element did stand out somewhat.
I laughed ONCE during this movie. Maybe twice at a push.
And I must say, the scene where Martine (Tautou) attends an important business meeting was funny. The Asian men all look to her for her input, and she begins speaking..
Audrey is bloody funny, I’ve not seen her perform like this before – she’s never made me laugh out loud. But she did here. Her ability to speak Chinese is fucking hilarious as she delivers one word at a time and as slowly as possible. The transition from her French blending into Chinese was dynamic in itself, but her voice – bloody great. This was literally THE ONLY time I laughed during the movie.
Chinese Puzzle is one of THE WORST movies I have ever had to sit through. It is a messy, disjointed affair narrated by a man who I couldn’t feel less sympathetic towards.
Writer Cédric Klapisch created a story about how complicated the lead character’s life is, but ironically the structure and direction of the movie mirrored this – it could have taken a different, easier route but instead became a shabby, uneventful piece of crap I would definitely never watch again. It was beyond irrelevant, and I wouldn’t let my worst bloody enemy to sit through it.
Avoid this movie at all costs. However – if you have no sense of humour, you’ll probably love it.