MPI // 2009 // 100 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge James A. Stewart (Retired) // February 28th, 2011
"To next year! To love!"
June 21 is the beginning of summer, and Street Music Night in Paris. It's also the night of an annual dinner party for a group of friends -- unless they have a Change of Plans (Le Code A Changé) -- in the latest movie from director Danièle Thompson (Avenue Montaigne).
As his wife ML (Karen Viard, Paris) attends a flamenco class, Piotr (Dany Boon, Micmacs) is cooking up stew and scallops for a dinner party. ML's father turns up, and has to hide away to avoid conflict with younger sister Juliette. Piotr meets former classmate Sarah (Emmanuelle Seigner, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly), and the sparks are still there. All of the guests must contend with the crowds on Street Music Night, and one will have an accident that leads to a permanent change of plans. One year later, the group has plans to assemble again, and we'll see how things turned out.
Danièle Thompson says she and her co-writer son Christopher tried to make the dinner party sound as realistic as possible. That she does. The dinner party scene is filled with fragmented jokes, comments, and bits of gossip that might not make sense but do capture the feel of a real crowded dinner table. Of course, it feels like a dinner party where you don't know anyone, since you don't, but that'll change eventually.
That fragmented feeling carries on beyond the dinner party, since Danièle Thompson starts using flashbacks during the second June 21 to catch viewers up on the intervening year. That year, not the annual gathering, is the heart of the movie, so you'll get used to it. There's a pregnancy, a bout with cancer, a struggle with disabling injuries, infidelity, a divorce, a marriage, a bestselling novel, and a business startup.
While there's humor -- people asking ML whether Piotr's really the father of her child become a running gag -- Thompson aims for something more bittersweet and dramatic. You won't be laughing out loud, but you will keep watching to see how things turn out. Fortunately, the stories pay off when they come together at the annual gathering. There's a change of venue here, in keeping with the theme of changing plans.
A couple of years ago, I screened Thompson's Avenue Montaigne, which was eye candy for people who like the Travel Channel, myself included. Change of Plans is more focused on its story, but you get a feel for the energy of a Paris summer of festivals, something I've only heard about on Radio France International before this.
The production and transfer look good, although I thought I spotted process shots as couples drove to and from the party. The overlapping dialogue comes across clearly, and there's some flamenco music to enliven the score.
There's a decent range of extras as Danièle Thompson, Emmanuelle Seigner, and Dany Boon talk about the movie, with emphasis on the overlapping dialogue and social hypocrisy in Paris. There's a making-of that shows Danièle and Christopher Thompson working together, an actor dealing with a minor mishap on the set, and, finally, "destruction of the set." A trailer starts off with a spoiler but also captures the fragmented feeling of that dinner party well. That's about 70 minutes of extra material.
If you're looking for something like Avenue Montaigne, you might be disappointed. This one isn't that light.
While my taste in French comedy admittedly leans more toward the mostly silent slapstick of Micmacs and Mr. Hulot's Holiday, I liked Change of Plans. I got interested in the characters as the story went along, and I got just enough glimpses of the music festivals to satisfy my travelogue cravings.
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Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
Running Time: 100 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated