Love Etc. (1996) / Drama-Romance
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably R for sexuality and language
Running Time: 105 min.
Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Yvan Attal, Charles Berling
Director: Marion Vernoux
Screenplay: Marion Vernoux
Review published April 20, 2000
Those French filmmakers are a wacky bunch. So many reel you into the characters and storyline, only to not know what to do with them in the end. This particular one had me going for a while, with an interesting tale of seduction and obsession, evoking such a natural feel, that it progressed realistically, despite some moments of over-stylization. However, just as it began to grab me, it dropped me outright with a final 20 minutes of unrealistic resolutions and amoral posturing about relationships that rang nothing but hollow. If you think you're going to learn anything about relationships from LOVE, ETC., forget it. The filmmakers don't have a clue themselves. They couldn't even finish their title right.
LOVE ETC. is the tale of Benoit, a lonely man with low-self esteem and an inability to go out and talk to women. Sick of being alone, he puts an ad in the singles column and meets Marie, and soon the two fall in love. Eventually the two get married, but Benoit's best friend Pierre begins to develop an infatuation with Marie, phoning her at all hours to tell her he loves her and following her every move.
It's really hard to lay blame with anyone here, because from all appearances, it's a solid production all around. Fine acting, smart directing, and nifty writing develop things nicely. Where the film goes wrong is in not being true to its own themes, and in trying to resolve matters in ways contradictory to its own convictions. All its pretensions about love, relationships, sex and adultery get tossed out in a hurry when the less-than-ironic ending tries to tie things up sloppily.
A valuable filmmaking lesson needs to be learned here: if you're going to take great care in building an intricate house of cards, don't throw the last four cards in the deck carelessly on top of the house or you'll quickly find out how quickly a hollow house collapses. For all of its finer attributes, LOVE, ETC. remains a well-made waste of time.
©2000 Vince Leo