Courtney Howard // Film Critic

Directed by: Clovis Cornillac
Starring: Clovis Cornillac, Mélanie Bernier, Philippe Duquesne, Lilou Fogli, Grégoire Oestermann

Most screwball romantic comedies these days are as generic as they are formulaic. Not many filmmakers can layer in smarts, sass and laughs in a clever and unique way. However, leave it to the French to completely subvert and dodge the genre’s pitfalls in favor of something stimulating. Take actor-turned-director Clovis Cornillac’s BLIND DATE. The stylized romcom has a sweet, romantic sentiment with its 50’s throwback vibe. It’s enjoyable. It’s entertaining. It’s exceptional.

In the film, Cornillac plays “Machin,” a misanthropic shut-in who’s working on his greatest creation, a puzzle called the “Ulimax.” Only he’s about to meet his greatest conundrum yet – a new neighbor he nicknames “Machine” (Mélanie Bernier). She’s a classical pianist living on her own for the first time, away from the controlling clutches of her piano teacher father (Grégoire Oestermann). The trouble is their apartment’s shared wall is paper thin, with each of them hearing every little sound from the other person. Though the pair attempt to drive each other insane with escalating symphonic displeasures (like a hair dryer, blender full of screws and the sounds of porn), they wind up forming an unconventional romance as he teaches her to let go of her stiff conventions. His best friend Artus (Philippe Duquesne) and her philandering sister Charlotte (Lilou Fogli, who’s Cornillac’s real-life wife and co-writer) think they’re insane, but Machin and Machine think they’ve got the dating game all figured out.

Lilou Fogli & Mélanie Bernier in BLIND DATE. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures France.

Lilou Fogli & Mélanie Bernier in BLIND DATE. Courtesy of Paramount Pictures France.

At first glance, it’s easy to dismiss the film as an amalgam of clichéd tropes and devices; She’s an uptight, type-A personality, who mostly sports the romcom uniform of glasses, pulled back hairdo, and buttoned-up blouses. He’s a short-tempered homebody. How will these two ever get along?! Yes, we know exactly where that’s headed, but it does so organically minus any pretense. These are two broken people finding each other and finding magic being broken together – there’s a cuteness to that. There’s the inevitable “you lied to me” moment, but when it comes, we’re blindsided by how genuinely authentic the betrayal feels. Fogli, Cornillac, Tristan Schulmann and Mathieu Oullion’s screenplay pulls this beat off with such sly subtlety, it’s astounding. Plus, we know that wall – a symbolic metaphor for the barriers these two have put up blocking their own emotions – is gonna come tumbling down, but it’s the when and the how that makes us surrender to the picture’s charms.

Thierry Pouget’s cinematography is polished, warm and delightful. Jean-François Elie’s crisp cuts keep the film snappy and brisk. Guillaume Roussel’s score is the perfect mix of pep and kook, complementing the hilarious shenanigans without being pushy and obtrusive.

Though it never quite reaches the level of AMELIE and LOVE ME IF YOU DARE, other French romcoms that share a similar vibe, BLIND DATE has an adorable quirk all its own. It’s revolutionary without going overboard.

4 out of 5

BLIND DATE (UN PEU BEAUCOUP AVEUGLÉMENT) plays ColCoa on April 26. It opens in France on May 6. There are no current US release dates.

About author

Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.