Love, Loss and a Swedish Suitor
Starring: Audrey Tautou, Francois Damiens
Review written by Robert Patrick
The doe-eyed, stencil-lipped Audrey Tautou is often cast for her boppy, carbonated persona. Gaining fame for her portrayal as a lovelorn Parisian in Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie, Tautou’s waifish frame has been coddled by the hearts of filmgoers for years. Sadly, in the wrong hands, Tautou is like key codes to a nuclear weapon. In Ron Howard’s Titanic-like disaster, The Da Vinci Code, all Tautou could do was play alongside the band as the ship sank into a slushy abyss. No matter what heralded auteur Tautou works with, the French actress pairs best with Jeunet’s colorful streamers – A Very Long Engagement was somewhat opaque, but still had flurries of brightness. Here, Tautou finds herself in the hands of two strange directors, David and Stephane Foenkinos, whom have the volatile job of figuring out how to handle the winsome thespian. Thankfully, the team of directors behind the actress’ newest film, Delicacy, manage to distill just enough of that Tautou “Je ne sais quoi” without suffocating their film in molasses.
Delicacy is a smirking dichotomy of heavy tragedy and bubbly optimism, a serum so cleverly devised that the film doesn’t stutter-step into the puckering aspartame of romantic-comedies. There is a sense that the situations in this movie, no matter how unabashedly linear they may seem, come off as organic and, when they find themselves in the territory, pleasantly operatic. In the opening scene of Delicacy, there is a plinking, mischievous score that floods the speakers of the theater as we see a long shot of Tautou’s feet pattering across a weaving street in France. The camera flutters and dives with purpose, like a buzzing hummingbird. This scene sets up an episodic adventure where Nathalie (Tautou), a woman caught in the throes of love, finds herself pried free of the man she adores. Attempting to find solace in the worn soles of her memories, Nathalie dismisses the idea of shoehorning herself out of her flat and into the arms of the unknown. Nathalie continues to work as a project manager at a prestigious company, but her granite exterior makes her co-workers question if their boss’ scabrous disposition is a product of her newly affected psyche. Torn and emotionally bruised, Nathalie decides to carnally – and blindly – backlash against herself by having a spurious kiss with one of her underlings, a hapless and scruffy-mawed Swede named Markus (Francois Damiens). The rest of the film is both effervescent and gloomy.
Delicacy is ultimately a sonnet to the loss of love, and to the rekindling of the unknown. David and Stephane Foenkinos do a wonderful job at keeping their movie breezy without letting it get blown over by sentimentality. Tautou balances her signature dewy naivete with a titanium shell of authority. It’s a juggling act that fits the film’s flippant screenplay to a tee. David Foenkinos wrote and directed Delicacy, so he knows how to get his actors, specifically his two leads, to volley his dialogue to the desired locations without an iota of contrivance. Without the earthy, awkward feel to Tautou and Damiens’ interactions the movie would be a concave of disappointment. The chemistry here is astounding. Of course when you have Tautou you’re film is mildly affable by default, but here, in the bubbly and barbed world of the Foenkinos, the actress’ talents are taken to a new level. Delicacy is a must for those who love French whimsy, emoticon malfunctions, and the eyelash batting of Audrey Tautou.