Russian Dolls

By  · Published on October 15th, 2006

Available: September 26, 2006

Love is big business in Hollywood. A quick survey of every movie ever made (that’s right, a quick one) reveals that a gigantic percentage are about love – finding it, losing it, or killing people with a chainsaw for not getting it as a child. Even some of the most macho action flicks have some sort of subplot with the unstoppable hero impressing the gorgeous lounge singer/bikini model. If that confuses our American concept of love, perhaps the best country to look to for guidance is France. In fact, France’s Cedric Klapisch might be the best writer/director to go to as well.

Russian Dolls, Klapisch’s follow-up to his hit The Spanish Apartment, focuses again on Xavier (Romain Duris) and search for love or something that looks like it and twirls its skirt as it walks. Needless to say, Xavier is a flawed hero played effortlessly by Duris, a writer whose career hasn’t exactly taken off and whose love life is marked by failure -albeit, pretty gorgeous failure. As he trudges through life, he seeks out advice on love from his friends from the first film – Martine (Audrey Tautou), a former girlfriend, Isabelle (Cecile de France) a newly-single lesbian that takes Xavier into her apartment, and William (Kevin Bishop) who has since moved to Russia and fallen for a ballet dancer.

Xavier’s trek through love is a mix of fantasy and reality. The fantasy comes in the form of supermodel Celia (Lucy Gordon), the reality, from Wendy (Kelly Reilly), a writer and coworker with a comically violent ex. As with most love stories featuring men facing quarter-life crises, the big question is whether the leading man will stay true to his true love or continuing hopping from one gorgeous, exciting girl to the next. Settle down or continue to sow oats. As with most good films, Russian Dolls keeps you guessing all the way to the end.

What’s interesting about the movie is that its difficult to figure out if it’s a comedy or drama. The scenes flow like the small talk banter of old college friends. Even more so, it’s difficult to get beyond any emotion hotter than lukewarm from the cool-than-thou cast of this movie. This is partly due to the dead-on conversational dialogue and delivery. Normally, the emotional content of a love story being lukewarm would be a bad thing, but overall, the movie works because it seems real. Unlike the corpus of sugary romance movies aptly named chick flicks, this movie is a fair look at what relationships look like. No one is perfect, and maybe not even perfect for each other, but the bottom line is that love is strong enough to keep two people together and make them willing to work through their problems.

The DVD has the normal features – scene selection and subtitles in English and Spanish (most of the movie is split into English, French and Russian dialogue) – but there’s also a short featurette on the making of Russian Dolls which was entertaining. It shows the franticness of trying to get a movie on film. It also has interviews with the cast as they explore the nature’s of their characters, and, in most cases, revisiting them for a sequel. Writer/Director Cedric Klapisch also provides some insights into the film-making process. Other than that, you better be buying the disc for the movie.

The Upside: So many beautiful women, and, unlike most American movies, they can all act.

The Downside: As a study of how relationships truly exist, it can be a bit more than frustrating at times, and the nonchalance school of acting that some of the cast exudes only adds to it.

On the Side: Can’t find any fun facts for this particular movie. Maybe because it’s French. Of course, that’s kind of a fun fact.

Final Grade: B+

Related Topics:

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.