Up For Love (2016)
You’ll search far and wide to find a positive review of this film but you have found one here. Like every romantic farce, Up For Love (2016) is a comedy based on situational humour rather than dialogue or action. It’s a genre that shows people revealing themselves by how they react to the unexpected and this one is funny and sad and loaded with charm.
The plotline is simple: a beautiful lawyer loses her phone and a caller offers to return it if she will dine with him. Freshly divorced Diane (Virginie Efira) is trying to move on and is vulnerable to the smooth-talking Alexandre (Jean Dujardin). When they first meet she is stunned to find that the high-profile architect is 4 foot 6 inches tall. It is a hilarious scene of studied avoidance and shifting glances. But they hit it off and start dating, and each situation into which Diane introduces Alexandre is a farcical study of how people react to his diminutive stature. Throughout it all, Alexandre endures the stares and jibes with good-humoured acceptance despite the callous insensitivity of people towards those who are different.
There is an unmistakable feeling of guilt in laughing at how Alexandre copes with everyday moments in his life, like needing to jump up into a normal size chair and see his dangling feet not reach the floor. But that is the whole point: how would we react in the situation? Dujardin is a pin-up star of French cinema and he plays here with irrepressible warmth and forbearance despite his short straw in life. Efira is his perfect match and plays middle-class embarrassment to perfection. Critics have complained that the digital effects to down-size Dujardin are clumsy. It is true that if you look for it, you can notice some between-scene differences in scale and perspective that slightly alters his size in relation to the frame. Just ignore it. The whole of cinema involves suspension of disbelief and this story has more than enough going for it to be spoilt by minor hiccups with experimental technology.
Love stories between mismatched souls have always been the lifeblood of romantic comedy, so in one sense Up For Love is just another take on an ancient theme. If your glass is always half empty, then this film is a flawed cliché. For others, it is a delightful romance that doubles as a serious essay on dealing with difference. It is heart-warming and awkward, original and familiar, all at the same time.
Director: Laurent Tirard
Stars: Jean Dujardin, Virginie Efira