28 June 2008 | mstomaso
Delightful Parisian Light Romance
Daniele and Christopher Thomspon's light melodrama "Avenue Montaigne" (AKA Fauteuils d'orchestre) paints a wandering portrait of life in Paris' theatre district, centered on a small bistro which brings together stars, writers, directors, musicians, celebrity worshipers, and waiters. Several story arcs involving a variety of somewhat neurotic main characters are woven together around the story of the single character who does not appear to indulge in any particular neuroses - Jessica (Cecile DeFrance), a young woman who has come to Paris in hopes of creating an independent life for herself. Tirelessly hopeful, homeless, and delightful, Jessica's willfulness and charming personality wins her a job as the first female employee of the bistro around which most of the stories evolve.
Here, our heroine meets a brilliant pianist who is sick of the constraints of his own success and is married to a beloved wife who has sacrificed her own career to support his (Lefort - Albert DuPontel); A father and son (the Grumbergs, played by Claude Brasseur and Christopher Thompson) whose strained relationship is complicated by the father's very successful habit of collecting great art; A very high-strung, experienced and intelligent aging actress, who is terrified that her greatest opportunities may lie behind her (Catherine - Valerie Lemercier), and others.
Jessica's elderly and somewhat senile grandmother, who raised her, plays a pivotal, but largely behind-the-scenes role in all of this. In a sense Jessica comes to Paris to allow her grandmother to vicariously live on through Jessica just as much as she does so in order to find her own path.
The stories implied above are very nicely juxtaposed and the overall structure of the film is reminiscent of other excellent French and Italian melodramas. Avenue Montaigne, as most mainstream melodramas do, pays off with resolution, but does not challenge believability (often a problem for modernistic melodrama) and is, like the complex characters it examines, not entirely predictable.
Uplifting, but honest and realistic, the film is very well acted all-around, excellently scripted and nicely directed and edited. I found Ms DeFrance, Valerie Lemercier and Albert Dupontel particularly outstanding. The soundtrack is also quite nicely integrated into the action of the film, sometimes giving the film a sometimes-needed touch of magical fantasy.
Highly recommended for the romance/melodrama crowd. Recommended for others.