Happily Ever After movie review, Yvan Attal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alain Chabat, Emmanuelle Seigner, Alain Cohen. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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"Happily Ever After"
(Ils se marièrent et eurent beaucoup d'enfants)

3 stars
(In subtitled French)
99 minutes | Rated: R
LIMITED: Friday, June 17, 2005
Written & directed by Yvan Attal

Starring Yvan Attal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alain Chabat, Emmanuelle Seigner, Alain Cohen, Anouk Aimée, Angie David, Claude Berri, Johnny Depp

  • Yvan Attal
  • Charlotte Gainsbourg
  • Johnny Depp

  •  LINKS for this film
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    Ennui, envy, wanderlust affect couples in evolving comedy-drama that asks what 'Happily Ever After' really means

    By Rob Blackwelder

    French actor Yvan Attal has now written and directed two films in which he and wife Charlotte Gainsbourg played a husband and wife having marital problems -- and he's getting better at it.

    2002's "My Wife Is an Actress" was a comedy about fame and jealousy taking their toll in a young marriage, but the emotional immaturity of the characters eventually took a toll on the movie. But in the pensive and more down-to-earth "Happily Ever After," Attal has grown as both a writer and a director, creating a story that enjoys the humor of life while asking just what makes a satisfying, successful relationship -- just what does "happily ever after" really mean?

    The picture starts out following three buddies in their mid-40s who often envy each other's lots in life. Vincent (Attal) is suffering from marital ennui and beginning to cheat on his wife Gabrielle (Gainsbourg) despite their playful affection and stable partnership of adoration for their young son. Georges (Alain Chabat) is miserable under the thumb of a bitter wife (Emmanuelle Seigner) on a rampage of feminism. Both envy unmarried playboy Fred (Alain Cohen), who sleeps with a string of much younger women but says he wishes to be in love, married and with kids. (His behavior says otherwise, but then maybe he's just French.)

    But as the story evolves, the focus slips slowly, smoothly and absorbingly toward Gabrielle, whose quiet knowledge of her husband's infidelity becomes the catalyst for her own heart to wander. Triggered by a brief moment of nervous chemistry with an alluring American stranger as they listen to the same CD on a headphone kiosk at a record store (American pop songs become a symbol of fantasy wanderlust), the narrative begins tapping into her sometimes passionate, sometimes melancholy daydreams, and exploring her uncertainty about the future of her marriage.

    Plain yet curiously and intelligently sexy, Gainsbourg provides a wonderfully complex heart for the film as it touches on the notion that even small changes can throw a relationship off course while seemingly unimportant factors can have the power to keep two people together -- whether they're happy or not. (This is epitomized in a couple short scenes with Vincent's parents, played by French cinema icons Anouk Aimée and Claude Berri.)

    As a director, Attal is creative in crafting cinematic mood, using focus and camera movements to subtly but deftly enhance and even anticipate Gabrielle's emotions (something he doesn't do for the men, whose feelings are more primal and less complex).

    As an actor, he provides Vincent -- ostensibly the main character -- with a certain unease that brings depth to Vincent's struggle with his commitment to his marriage.

    But as a writer he's betrayed a little by a desire for a tidy ending -- at least for some of his characters. Although he leaves some doors open in the central relationships, some underdeveloped stories are wrapped up a little too neatly and superficially as the film draws to a close.

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