Eye For Film >> Movies >> I Do (2006) Film Review
Reviewed by: Anton Bitel
In films about marriages of convenience, logic dictates that at least one of the characters must have a good reason to enter the arrangement, whether it be to acquire a work permit (Green Card, The Wedding Banquet), or to cloak a sexuality that their more traditional family would find culturally unacceptable (The Wedding Banquet, Head-On). In Eric Lartigau's I Do, however, the protagonist's motives are so absurdly slight as to strain all credibility from the outset - while the motives of his phoney fiancée, though somewhat stronger, seem ill-conceived upon any kind of close inspection. It does not bode well for a romantic comedy whose outcome you can already guess without even seeing the film.
Luis Costa (Alain Chabat) is a contented 43-year-old bachelor. When his domineering mother (Bernadette Lafont) and five sisters decide to set him up with a wife, he concocts a hare-brained scheme to get them off his back for good: announce his engagement to a paid accomplice, and then have her jilt him at the altar. So he turns for help to his best friend's sister Emmanuelle (Charlotte Gainsbourg), who is new in town, needs the money, and has her own reasons for wanting to appear part of a couple.
After Emmanuelle has publicly dumped him, Luis calls upon her services once again to tie up some unexpected loose ends in his plan - and then, just as he has succeeded brilliantly in turning his whole family against the young woman, Luis finds himself madly in love with her. Nulle surprise there, then.
I Do has plenty going in its favour, at least at first. The introductory sequence in which Luis offers a breezy, whimsical account of his own and his family's history, is a quirky joy - and in early scenes both Chabat and Gainsbourg exude enough individual charm seemingly to carry the film through its artificial plot contrivances and predictability. Problems, however, set in as soon as these two come together, owing to the alarming lack of chemistry between them. We know from the start that they will fall in love, simply because that is what the conventions of the genre require - but when eventually the inevitable happens, nothing has actually occurred on screen to make this outcome appear even remotely plausible.
"Don't worry," Luis assures Emmanuelle, "I like girls with boobs - you're not my type"; to which she rejoins, "And I like guys with balls." She is right, too: Luis' (and, by extension, the plot's) central flaw is his extreme cowardice in the face of strong women, a condition which we are led to believe has afflicted all the men in the family since the death, years ago, of its mighty patriarch (who had a heroic name, Hercule, to match his more dominant machismo). Luis' pusillanimity is what leads him to go through with his perversely elaborate ruse, when, as his friend Pierre-Yves (Grégoire Oestermann) suggests to him from the start, it would be far easier just to tell his female relatives: "I don't want to get married."
It is what, ultimately, makes the film so unsatisfying. Far from caring much if he will ever get his girl, you just want Luis to act his age and grow some balls. In the end he will, at least to an extent (his final line, addressed to his brothers-in-law, is: "Guys, we gotta be firmer") - but it is a case of too little too late, and some viewers will resent him for wasting their time by taking so long to do what any sane person could see needed doing from the outset. People often face obstacles to get what they want - but in Luis' case, the obstacles are all of his own making - or, more precisely, engineered by the screenwriters to get their farcical plot moving. Perhaps, buried in all of this, there is meant to be some comment on the emasculated state of modern man - but really it is the film itself that comes off half-cocked.Reviewed on: 25 Oct 2007