With her new film, Fauteuils d’Orchestre, director Daniele Thompson attempts to give us an insightful view into our own human nature. She brings together a cast of characters who frequent the artistic area of Avenue Montaigne in Paris.
Through the characters’ web of connections we are supposed to learn something about the human spirit, our desires and our ideals.
Instead, we are left with a series of forced meetings between exaggerated characters. The “message” is spoon-fed to us, and we wonder when it’s all going to come to a predictable end.
Cecile DeFrance plays Jessica, a young 20 year old girl looking for work in Paris. Jessica’s grandmother calls her her “ray of sunshine”, and DeFrance certainly plays the bright character well. Her constant perkiness and fresh-faced innocence, however, soon grow tiresome and one wonders if anything at all could conquer her irrepressible high spirit.
Jessica finally finds a job at the Bar Des Theatres, the local hangout for artists. She then becomes involved in every other character’s storyline, sometimes in the most implausible ways. She is either delivering lunch to the pianist rehearsing nearby, or returning a scarf to a casting agent who left it at the bar; but Jessica always finds a way to be a part of every little sub-plot happening in the movie.
The twists and turns screenwriters Daniele and Christopher Thompson have tried to work into their script are reminiscent of Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain (2001). The twists, however, are far more contrived in Fauteuils d’Orchestre. And although DeFrance’s character is almost as beautiful as Audrey Tatou’s, she is much less interesting.
The characters, for the most part, are played as such – characters, not human beings. The artists in the film, Valerie Lemercier as the famous actress, and Albert Dupontel as the famous pianist, are portrayed as your stereotypical prima donnas. Their hyper-sensitivity and erratic behaviour quickly become annoying. The presentation of these “quirky” artists is all too clear, and far too simplified.
The most compelling performance, perhaps, is given by Laura Morante in the role of Valentine Lefort. Valentine is the loyal wife of the famous pianist in the story. She follows him on tour, acting as his booking agent, nurse, maid, and everything else. Valentine is unsatisfied with her marriage, but her incredible devotion to her husband keeps her hanging on.
Morante plays the role with a certain honesty that is almost completely lacking in the rest of the film. One feels the deep connection between these two characters, and some of the most powerful moments between Valentine and her husband (played by Dupontel) are in silence. They capture the pain two people who love each other deeply can put themselves through.
Perhaps this couple’s story is all the more interesting because it is one of the only sub-plots Jessica hardly features in. The break from her perky, sunshiny character is very welcome.
Fauteuils d’Orchestre tries to give the audience a meaningful message about humanity and the values and ideals we all have. The storyline, however, is terribly predictable and most of the characters far too exaggerated to illicit any real human connection.
The creators of this film had a fairly good idea to begin with, but their film lacks creativity and real heart. That is, after all, what we go to the movies to see.