Lost in Translation: 'Romantics Anonymous'
Hello, dear Translators! (That’s my new nickname for the five of you who read my blog.) So far, our cinematic journey has taken us to a hospital in France, a funeral in England, a sexy road trip through Mexico, a bloody island in Japan and a slum in Brazil. Since we’ve gone through some very graphic movies, I thought it’d be a nice change of pace to talk about something a little sweeter. And what's sweeter than “Romantics Anonymous,” a French romantic comedy about two shy chocolatiers? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Angelique Delange (Isabelle Carre) is a gifted chocolate maker whose shyness is so debilitating she faints when introducing herself to a support group. She’s not just shy, though. She’s emotif, which is French for "emotional" or "hyper-sensitive." If you think Angelique is shy, wait until you meet Jean-Rene (Benoit Poelvoorde), her male counterpart. He's so awkward he'll avoid answering his phone at all costs. You'd think such anxiety would keep them from having a love life, and you'd be right. Until they find each other, that is.
Their story begins with a job search: Jean-Rene hires Angelique after the death of her former employer. Their awkwardness is hilarious, and there are some fantastic bits of physical comedy throughout the film. Look for a particularly funny dinner scene that had me laughing uncontrollably. Carre and Poelvoorde portray their characters’ nervousness with such convincing poise and nuance that it's hard not to believe every gesture and every word.
This believability might come from the first-hand experience of director and co-writer Jean-Pierre Ameris, who suffered from social anxiety for years before joining the support group on which the movie was based. His experience perfectly complemented the talent of the two leads, creating a believable and entertaining cinematic experience.
You know how generic romantic comedies go: A couple falls helplessly in love and lives a brief but intense honeymoon stage. Then, an obstacle emerges and compromises their relationship. I’ve noticed this conflict is usually external. The lovebirds are normally sure they are meant to be. When they aren't, it's because of a huge misunderstanding. There's no misunderstanding here, though. Angelique and Jean-Rene have very legitimate reasons to question the future of their relationship. Their conflict is very much internal, and that's what I love so much about "Romantics Anonymous." It's much more realistic and relatable than your average romantic comedy.
I try to embrace every film genre, but I must say I am not a fan of romantic comedies. There are some exceptions, but generally speaking, I’d argue it’s hard to find a good romantic comedy because many filmmakers mistake superficiality for a feel-good film. That's why I was so taken with “Romantics Anonymous." It's funny enough to keep you entertained and smart enough to keep you intrigued. Move over, "When Harry Met Sally."