Thursday, September 30, 2010

Movie Review: Leaving (Partir)

Leaving (Partir) * ½
Directed By:
Catherine Corsini.
Written By: Catherine Corsini & Gaelle Macé.
Starring: Kristin Scott Thomas (Suzanne), Sergi López (Ivan), Yvan Attal (Samuel), Bernard Blancan (Rémi), Aladin Reibel (Dubreuil), Alexandre Vidal (David), Daisy Broom (Marion).

Kristin Scott Thomas has had something of a career renaissance in the past few years. While I have always found her somewhat reserved and superficial in English movies, when she acts in French, she is somewhat freer and looser, and much more convincing. In the surprise hit from two years ago, Tell No One, she did great in a small role. And her career best performance was in I’ve Loved You So Long, another French. Last year year, I actually liked her while she was acting in her native language in Easy Virtue. While I still wouldn’t say that I am a fan of Scott Thomas, she has certainly started to grow on me.

Which is why her new film, Partir, is such a disappointment. This is a very obvious melodrama about an affair that goes too far, and ends up completely ruining an affluent family. This is a movie where all the characters actions make little to no sense. I just kept sitting there thinking that all three of the characters in this love triangle are selfish, stupid people.

Scott Thomas plays Suzanne, the wife of a doctor Samuel (Yvan Attal), who has decided to return to the workforce for the first time in years. She plans on opening her own physiotherapy office out of their home. In order to do this, they need to hire a contractor. They end hiring Ivan (Sergei Lopez), a Spanish immigrant living in France and doing odd jobs. He is a divorced, ex-convict with a daughter living back in Spain that he hardly ever sees. When Suzanne causes an accident that leaves Ivan in a cast, the two go from innocently flirting with each into passionate embraces. They start screwing like teenagers, and soon Suzanne is ready to leave her husband, and two adolescent children, in order to live with Ivan in his small, one room apartment. Samuel is obviously upset, and does everything he can to make her life a living hell. All the money in their relationship is his, and since she is abandoning him and not the other way around, as the whole thing becomes a legal mess, she winds up penniless. Her new career is a bust, and Ivan can barely support himself. Things get desperate pretty quickly in the film.

As I watched the film, I had several problems with the basic setup of the movie. For one, I never bought the chemistry between Scott Thomas and Lopez. It is not uncommon for married couples to get bored and have affairs, but while lust is understandable, the love that blossoms between them requires more of a connection than this movie offers. For another, I hated the idea of making Samuel the bad guy in the movie. His biggest sin before the affair seems to be that he was boring. All of a sudden, Samuel seems to be an abusive, horrible, cruel, petty man who wants to make her life miserable. Why is that every movie about a woman who cheats on her husband, it’s some sort of feminist statement, but when a man does it, it’s because he’s a pig?

The end of the film struck me as one of the most selfish acts that I have ever seen in a film. By that point, I had lost all sympathy with these three characters and their sordid lives. None of them think about the consequences of their actions, none of them think about anything other than their own immediate needs. While Scott Thomas and Attal are actually quite good here, considering the material they had to work with, Lopez (best known for his villainous turns in Dirty Pretty Things and Pan’s Labyrinth) is just not cut out to be a sexy leading man. Perhaps had I believed him, and the love between him and Scott Thomas, the movie would have worked - or at least been better than it was. Because I didn’t, Partir is one of most boring, most infuriating movies of the year.

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