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Romance never tasted this sweet.
Deliciously witty and heartfelt, Jean-Pierre Ameris' new French comedy Romantics Anonymous follows two eccentric individuals as they embark on a rocky path to an inevitable romance. This little gem of a foreign film may have slipped under the radar in North America. However, following several positive appearances at festivals, Tribeca Film made the brilliant call to pick up distribution rights and give it the DVD release it deserves. Although fairly simplistic in terms of plot, Romantics Anonymous gently addresses universal themes without ever falling victim to superficial storytelling or one-dimensional characters.
In the film, Isabelle Carre (Private Fears in Public Places) plays Angelique, a talented chocolate maker whose overbearing self-consciousness prevents her from fully enjoying what life has to offer. Adding to the challenge of confronting her shyness is her new boss Jean-Rene (Benoit Poelvoorde, Coco Before Chanel), a struggling chocolatier whose lack of confidence threatens to bring down his entire company. In an act of demonstrating her newfound affection for Jean-Rene without actually having to talk to him, Angelique decides to anonymously create a brand-new line of chocolate that should bring the business back on the right track. At the same time, Jean-Rene decides to confront his inner demons in a risky attempt to acknowledge and eventually expose the feelings he has for his new employee.
Touching on issues he himself has been experiencing his entire life, director Jean-Pierre Ameris does a fabulous job constructing a romance between two charming adults too afraid and uncomfortable to share their feelings and confess their fondness for each other. Combining great respect for his characters with his desire to inject the film with light, delightful humor, Ameris puts Angelique and Jean-Rene in the most awkward situations throughout the script, forcing them to make conversations when neither of them really knows how to properly communicate without succumbing to sudden panic attacks or inappropriate nervous breakdowns.
An awkwardly hectic interview and a hilariously uncomfortable dinner are just two of many memorable scenes demonstrating the sheer uneasiness that exists between these two individuals, whose excessive timidness is the obstacle to overcome if they ever want a shot at their relationship to work. Chocolate sorts of works as a third character in the film, connecting key moments in the story as the one big common passion that draws Angelique and Jean-Rene even closer. Ameris keeps it simple in terms of plot this time around, focusing instead on lively dialogue and the undeniable chemistry between his actors.
Romantics Anonymous marks the reunion of Poelvoorde and Carre in lead roles, following their haunting performances in Anne Fontaine's powerful drama Entre ses mains. Two of Europe's biggest (and most talented) movie stars, Poelvoorde and Carre deliver fantastic performances as Jean-Rene and Angelique, each displaying their crippling bashfulness in their own unique and most importantly authentic ways. Watching these two creating a deep sense of discomfort every time they step on screen together quickly turns into a very pleasant viewing experience filled with witty one-liners, intimate charm, and a whole lot of delicious-looking chocolate.
The DVD boasts a strong 2.35:1 widescreen transfer with a crisp image, vibrant colors, and overall clean picture quality. The Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround audio transfer doesn't necessarily stand out but does the job. The only extra on the disc is a short but informative interview with Jean-Pierre Ameris.
Many of us have at some time or another felt or still feel reluctant to communicate or share our feelings in fear of rejection and embarrassment. If there's one thing this little film achieves very well, it's examining characters whose shyness and lack of confidence prevents them from living their lives to the fullest extent. Romantics Anonymous follows them on their journey to open up and speak their minds no matter the consequences. The result is a short but sweet and ultimately romantic French comedy supported by a fabulous cast and a director who's an expert at crafting films dealing with real-life emotions and their often difficult impact on our human minds. Oh, and teasing us with delicious chocolate earns it some extra points as well.
Tasty, but not guilty.
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