Avenue Montaigne ***
Directed by Daniele Thompson
Written by Daniele Thompson and Christopher Thompson
Cecile de France as Jessica
Valerie Lemercier as Catherine Versen
Albert Dupontel as Jean-François Lefort
Laura Morante as Valentine Lefort
Claude Brasseur as Jacques Grumberg
Christopher Thompson as Frédéric "Fred" Grumberg
Dani as Claudie
Sydney Pollack as Brian Sobinski
106 Minutes(Rated PG-13 for some strong language and brief sexuality.)
"Avenue Montaigne" works like a French Robert Altman, and is a delightful and welcome trip to France all the way. While it doesn't paint as massive as a scale as the late Altman would have done, it does connect several characters, all through the eyes of a cafe waitress on Avenue Montaigne. What this film manages to do is bypass any form of pretension, which seemed like it would be covered with from the advertisements. "Avenue Montaigne" doesn't pretend to know everything, and is chocked full of innocence and charm. It is a different type of French comedy-it is much more light, and not the usual farce and over the top story lines that many French comedies end up being. And considering that it is European, there is no nudity at all, and there is only one tiny brief hint of sex. There is still smoking though, and because it is European, nothing can be done about that.
"Avenue Montaigne" centers around a small cafe that is very popular being it is across the street from an art gallery, a concert hall, and a performance theatre, so there are always various people coming in-actors, actresses, stagehands, managers, guards, etc. Here comes in Jessica, a young woman raised by her grandmother who constantly is telling the story of how she loved luxury, but could not afford to live a life of it. She needs work, and after much resistance by the owner because women never had work at this cafe, she is hired for a trial run-mainly because on the 17th there is an art auction, a concert, and an opening of a new play, so it is sure to be very busy. And then we are introduced to the people involved in those three events. For the art auction there is Jacques Grumberg who is selling his entire art collection, even though his son Frederic is upset by some of the things he is selling. For the concert there is the piano player Jean-François Lefort who is tired of playing in front of all these people, and would rather settle down and play in smaller venues-hospitals, retirement homes, etc. And for the play there is Catherine Versen, who is a soap opera actress that doesn't want to star in any more awful comedy plays, or that soap she's on for that matter. She is trying to get a role in the new film by Brian Sobinski(played by Sydney Pollack, which was somewhat distracting to find him here). And all of these people somehow get connected to Jessica, who is a little way manages to change their lives on a big scale.
"Avenue Montaigne" will not change the world, or even be remembered in a few months, but it is consistantly amusing, witty, and always charming. It's one of those films that will slowly have viewers over the next few years, as people will discover it by chance, by accident, or by word of mouth. Cecile de France is always delightful(even with the stick of barbed wire in "High Tension" she was radiant), and actresses like Valerie Lemercier and Laura Morante showcase their talents well. Especially the former, Lemercier is great as the bored actress Catherine Versen, whose boredom and nervousness makes for very good comedy. "Avenue Montaigne" is a pleasant little comedy that doesn't offer anything new, isn't groundbreaking, but makes for perfect entertainment, which is all we need sometimes.