Friday, May 16, 2014

Movie with Abe: Chinese Puzzle

Chinese Puzzle
Directed by Cédric Klapisch
Released May 16, 2014

It’s not always easy to describe what a film is about in specific terms. That may mean a complicated, layered story, and it’s up to the film in question to sort out its many plotlines and keep track of them. “Chinese Puzzle” centers on Xavier (Romain Duris), an author who follows his children from France to America when their mother moves them there. There are many elements of his life that make it a perpetually complicated ride, but that’s exactly what appeals about this inventive, heartwarming film filled with comedic and dramatic moments.

Xavier is defined in many ways by the women in his life. At the beginning of his story, which is not told chronologically in the film, the object of his romance is Wendy (Kelly Reilly), who gradually becomes less of a warm presence as she moves on to another man and tells Xavier that she is no longer interested in being with him. His best friend Isabelle (Cécile De France) is a lesbian in a committed relationship with an American, Ju (Sandrine Holt), who asks him to be the father of the baby they want to have together. And then there’s Martine (Audrey Tautou), an ex-girlfriend who also has two young kids and still seems to harbor romantic feelings for Xavier. He writes about his life, but it’s clear that the women are just as much a part of it as his kids.

What’s wonderful about “Chinese Puzzle” is that Xavier isn’t necessarily a bad guy. He’s hardly the most exemplary and put-together parent, but his intentions are completely good. He picks up his life to move to another country after a difficult airport goodbye, and does his best to make his minimal furnishings a hospitable environment for his children. The women in his life are far from perfect as well, each inhibited by their own vices. It’s a charming and immensely entertaining tale that’s at the same time whimsical and lasting.

The cast of this particular adventure compliments a superb script and fun directing to create a truly cohesive and enjoyable movie. Duris, who was the spectacular lead of “Heartbreakers,” is pleasantly endearing and affable as Xavier. Reilly and De France both imbue their characters with an edge that makes them both threatening and vulnerable, and Tautou and Holt make their less self-confident characters equally compelling. This is a wonderfully enthralling and great film.


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