Every Jack Has a Jill
Synopsis: 26-year-old Chloé (Mélanie Laurent) lives alone in Paris, between an invasive neighbour, a petty-minded colleague and a preachy kind of employee at a DVD rental store. It is a life that doesn't live up to her expectations.30-year-old Jack (Justin Bartha), an American who's been dumped by his girlfriend, wins a trip to Paris. By a fortunate stroke of luck, Chloé gets her hands on Jack's suitcase, one that his father left him and to which he is deeply attached. Chloé falls in love with the suitcase's contents. Chloé loves Jack, even though she's never seen him, even though she knows nothing about him. She convinces herself that he's the man of her dreams, that they're made for one another, and she does everything she can to find him.
French farce finds romance in a suitcase.
How much can you learn about a person you’ve never met from the contents of his or her suitcase—enough to fall in love? Hardly likely in the real world but that’s the premise of this trifling comedy from first-time French writer-director Jennifer Devoldère.
The cross-cultural romance involving two lost souls isn’t without its charms but it rarely rings true, not helped by a soundtrack of sappy songs with banal lyrics such as, “And I’m singing on a Friday night and I hope everything’s gonna be all right.”
The sporadic humour revolves around a series of misunderstandings and the antics of several clichéd characters: the result is an amiable but slight concoction with an often melancholy tone.
Justin Bartha plays the same kind of sad sack character he impersonated as Catherine Zeta-Jones’ love interest in the woeful rom-com The Rebound. He’s Jack Zimmerman (“like Bob Dylan’s real name,” he explains), a neurotic Yank who wins a trip to Paris after being dumped by his live-in girlfriend.
Mélanie Laurent, who was superb in Inglourious Basterds as a young French-Jewish woman who plots revenge after her family is killed by Nazis, is Chloé, who works for a medical magazine. The insecure young woman has a phobia about ATMs, faxes and telephones; she gets a colleague to make her phone calls for her; finds characters in books and films more relatable than real people; and has no love life despite being gorgeous. Her noisy neighbours, a bickering couple who are trying to have a baby despite their tiffs, probably aren’t a great advertisement for marriage.
Jack’s suitcase goes astray, Chloé loses hers after a flight to Brussels, and she ends up with his. Unable to resist temptation, she opens the bag and becomes smitten with the owner based purely on its contents including a copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude, which she’s read 37 times; unknown to her, Jack had just been given the book by his best mate Rufus (Billy Boyd) and isn’t the literary type anyway.
There are a few amusing interludes as Jack is befriended by a gormless English tourist who confesses his wife hadn’t spoken to him since she discovered he had an affair with a waitress named Big Bertha; and in Jack’s dealings with the surly hotel manager (Maurice Bénichou) and his sister.
Chloé intends to return the suitcase but the manager, who’s peeved at Jack’s failure to tip, claims he isn’t a guest. For reasons that aren’t explained, Chloé goes back to the hotel with the suitcase, this time filled with snapshots of herself, and Jack collects it as he’s about to return to the US.
You just know that Jack and Chloé will meet eventually, with a highly predictable, contrived outcome. Bartha adopts his patented hang-dog look and brings little warmth or pizzazz to proceedings. Laurent lights up the screen in almost every scene, even when she’s being miserable; it’s just a pity her character isn’t remotely believable.
The English title, by the way, is terrible: someone connected with the movie should have come up with something more inspiring: it was released in France as Jusqu'à toi (literally Until You).
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