Despite the French title being a book around which one of the main stories is centered, all the meta occurs outside the film; American critics have absolutely no idea what it’s about, which is precisely the plot! The snarkiness that runs throughout is the symptom of a larger problem. It’s easy to give advice about a particular situation but why not follow it yourself? Likely because you hear—yes, someone is talking, blah, blah, blah—but you don’t take the time to listen to what is—or isn’t—being said. I find it ironic that some people describe the script as “too wordy.” Everyone’s talking but never really saying what they mean or how they feel. Moreover, no one is paying any attention to what’s not being said: the eye roll, the shoulder slump, the sigh, the deliberate nudge given to a supposed stranger. Yet they all desperately want to be heard. Don’t we all? In an era of information overload, the best way to know someone is to see them—not merely look at them through a media lens; to watch them in their element. Try it. You’ll be surprised. The characters certainly were.
When divorcee, Eva attends a party with two married friends she’s slightly disappointed that she doesn’t find anyone attractive, not that she’s actively looking. But she does meet fellow divorcees, Marianne, who—rather than simply accepting her business card to be polite—actually hires her as a masseuse and Albert—with whom she shares some laughs—who ends up asking her out on a date. Though Albert isn’t conventionally handsome, he’s sweet and unpretentious. When Eva suddenly realizes she’s been comparing ex-husbands with her new client/ friend, who used to be married to her new boyfriend, she decides to milk the relationship for all it’s worth.
“She’s like a human Trip Advisor.”
“Albert is not a hotel.”
“Yeah, but if you could avoid staying in a bad one, wouldn’t you?”
This modern romance works because writer/ director, Nicole Holofcener captures the relatable companionship of middle-aged relationships. The audience can laugh with rather than at them; the awkward ramifications are expectedly cringe-worthy but the dialogue is so realistic there’s amusement amid the mess. Such levity keeps the subject matter light.
Loyalty is tricky; eventually, everyone must choose between the bonds of family and their commitment to guarded secrets, whether fledgling, dark, or just plain odd. Though everyone wants to preserve their image, they need someone to come and pull the threads that are already unraveling. And sometimes that person, who has the most for which they should feel ashamed, turns out to be the only one who understands the freedom of truth.