COLCOA Review: ‘YOU CHOOSE (L’EMBARRAS DU CHOIX)’ is the best romcom Renée Zellweger never starred in
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
You probably make at least 15 choices for yourself before you leave the house in the morning. What makes you go with oatmeal over a croissant, pants instead of a skirt, hair up or down, is all based on how you’re feeling. Imagine not being able to make decisions – from the major, all the way down to the minor. That’s how the forty-year-old protagonist at the center of YOU CHOOSE has lived her entire life. Co-writer-director Eric Lavaine’s script oscillates in humor from Woody Allen-inspired character neuroses to Richard Curtis-esque shenanigans. Not all of it works, but the stuff that does genuinely hits. With a handful of seldom-seen qualities, this French romcom is ripe for a British or American remake.
Juliette has never been able to make decisions on her own. She inherited this from her mother. Her life up until this point is one created by committee. After the death of her mother in 1992, her misanthropic father (Lionnel Astier) and her two best friends – single fashion blogger Sonia (Sabrina Ouazani) and married hairstylist Joelle (Anne Marivin) – are the jury she consults for advice. Her unwieldy indecisive mind has led her to botch romantic relationships – specifically a fiancé who recently dumped her when she didn’t help him with a bee sting. On the encouragement of her pals, she jumps back into the dating scene, head first, meet-cute-ing handsome Scottish banker Paul (Jamie Bamber) and handsome chef Etienne (Arnaud Ducret). Both men bring her love and happiness, but also crushing anxiety as now she’s gonna have to choose who to spend the rest of her life with.
YOU CHOOSE’s tone resonates in the same key as BRIDGET JONES’ DIARY, perhaps even louder. Lavaine, along with cinematographer François Hernandez, really captures the look and vibrant, warm feeling of one of Curtis’ romcoms. Narratively speaking, there are many rare assets showcased here. Lavaine, Laure Hennequart and Laurent Turner (9 MONTHS STRETCH) lets their heroine be a mature forty-year-old woman, even though her quandary is typically reserved for twentysomethings. Though it would’ve been nice to see Juliette built out a bit more beyond this “disease” that seems to define her, it’s nice the filmmakers don’t waste any time getting to her main quest. It’s also valuable to see female friendship portrayed in a healthy light. Her pals are supportive of her, encouraging her when they can, making her realize her errors. There’s a funny clothing swap gag between Sonia and Juliette that’s legit funny because they play the outlandishness with a straight face. And Joelle’s “come to Jesus” talk with Juliette is very sweet without being too sugary or sappy. Sonia, who constantly has a string of suitors knocking down her door, is shown in a sex-positive light – which, despite being a character facet in MURIEL’S WEDDING (Australian) and FOUR WEDDINGS AND A FUNERAL (British), is still something rarely seen in American cinema. Plus, the inevitable “you lied to me” portion of the film – something that’s inescapable in a romcom – is handled with very clever craft and care.
That said, the character quirks and eccentricities can be too much, feeling like it’s quirk for quirk’s sake rather than endemic to their souls. Individually, Joelle and Sonia could use more narrative support, establishing them with greater fortitude outside of their neuroses – Joelle with her insistence on others’ speaking English when she herself can’t, and Sonia with her string of suitors and job. Even though it does have sneaky character-driven relevance in the 3rd act, by the time they introduce Joelle’s unemployed husband Philippe (Jérôme Commandeur), who’s been training their cat to give high-fives, the film’s quirk limit has been exceeded. And while it eventually winds up speaking to a universal mid-life crisis, Juliette’s a-ha moment feels like it’s ten years too late.
Nevertheless, all these things could be tweaked in a remake as there’s a fairly strong foundation on which to build.
Grade: B-/ C+
YOU CHOOSE played ColCoa on May 2. It currently has no US distribution, however, someone should snap up the remake rights.