Weightless 

French "beach read" Roman de Gare is a mystery too light for its own good.

The French phrase "roman de gare" roughly translates as "travel novel," but while this film of the same name from septuagenarian New Wave veteran Claude Lelouch (best known for his 1966 art-house hit A Man and a Woman) is perhaps as ultimately insubstantial as a typical beach read, it doesn't go down quite as easily.

Lelouch's 49th feature, Roman de Gare is a twisty, slippery semi-mystery that takes mystery fiction itself as a subject. This blend of nationality, style, and subject matter draws strong comparisons to François Ozon's 2003 crossover hit Swimming Pool — though Roman de Gare is harder to follow and less, um, eye-catching.

The film opens with Judith Ralitzer (Fanny Ardant), a famous mystery and crime-fiction novelist, being interviewed on a TV talk show about her latest bestseller. From there, the movie flashes back to give background on exactly how the novel came to be, though it isn't entirely clear for a while that that's what you're seeing.

We see an anxious, chain-smoking young woman, Huguette (Audrey Dana), having a fight with her fiancé en route to meet her parents in rural France. When the couple stops for gas along the highway, the fiancé abandons her. After spending a lonely night on a bench at the station, the woman hitches a ride with Pierre (Dominique Pinon), a man stopping at the station for his morning coffee.

Along the ride, the film drops conflicting hints as to what Pierre's story might be. He may be Ralitzer's ghostwriter — or merely secretary. He may be a recently escaped serial killer. He may be a high school teacher who's run out on his wife and kids. Or he may just be a guy with an overactive imagination.

This set-up is intriguing, but the mystery doesn't hold up long enough. Attempts to build the kind of suspense found in roughly similar Alfred Hitchcock films like Suspicion or Shadow of a Doubt fall flat.

In the midst of this, there's a comedy of errors sequence, as Huguette convinces the mystery man to stand in for her fleeing fiancé and meet her parents. Purely on its own terms, this material is the most enjoyable stretch of the film.

The actors are engaging. The statuesque Ardant doesn't have a lot to do except look fabulous on her yacht, but her star power carries her along. Dana is attractive but with a hint of palpable desperation. And Pinon is a skinny, little frog-faced man who somehow maintains his own brand of charisma.

Ultimately, however, the shifting identities here — Is Judith a fraud? Is Huguette a hairdresser or a hooker? Is Pierre a killer, a maligned genius, or a schlub suffering a mid-life crisis? — never amount to much.

As summer counterprogramming, it's nice to see recognizable adults on the big screen, but that's about the strongest recommendation I can give to Roman de Gare.

Roman de Gare

Opening Friday, July 11th

Studio on the Square

Speaking of Roman De Gare, Movie Reviews

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
    • Lady Bird

      Greta Gerwig directs Saoirse Ronan in the dazzling coming of age comedy
    • Thor: Ragnarok

      Taika Waititi takes The God of Thunder in a comedic direction

Blogs

Tiger Blue

#18 Tigers 66, SMU 45

Film/TV/Etc. Blog

Indie Memphis' Greatest Hits 5:

News Blog

Q & A With MCA President Laura Hine

Politics Beat Blog

Cohen, 5 House Colleagues Launch Impeachment Effort Against Trump

Music Blog

Band Geeks: A Live Tribute to The Last Waltz

Politics Beat Blog

Democrat Dean, On Nashville-Memphis Back-and-Forth: "I Love I-40!"

Beyond the Arc

The Hustle Report: Week 2

Fly On The Wall Blog

Memphis College of Art in the 1960's-70's

ADVERTISEMENT

More by Chris Herrington

  • Last Words

    In "Enough Said," James Gandolfini makes his last lead film role his best.
    • Sep 26, 2013
  • Hayes Carll at the Hi-Tone

    • Sep 19, 2013
  • Masters of Sound

    New albums from two of Memphis’ most distinctive stylists.
    • Sep 19, 2013
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • Eye In The Sky

    Remote controlled warfare picture misses the mark
    • Apr 7, 2016
  • The Lost City of Z

    A mesmerizing story of obsession in the Amazon jungle
    • May 1, 2017
  • Knight Of Cups

    Adrift in images with Terrance Malick
    • Apr 12, 2016
ADVERTISEMENT
© 1996-2017

Contemporary Media
460 Tennessee Street, 2nd Floor | Memphis, TN 38103
Visit our other sites: Memphis Magazine | Memphis Parent | Inside Memphis Business
Powered by Foundation