Fans of Cédric Klapisch’s charming 2002 dramedy, L’Auberge Espagnole, will no doubt flock to see this, the final film in his trilogy (2005’s Russian Dolls was the second), but they’ll be disappointed. Once collegian and hopeful, our bumbling hero, novelist Xavier (Romain Duris), is now a bit more wrinkled and beaten down, with an estranged wife who’s fled with their kids to New York. After following them and trying to make a life in the city, Xavier is warned by his editor back home that happiness is a disaster for fiction.
It’s hard not to take this as foreshadowing: Overlapping stories of longing—Xavier’s ex Martine (Audrey Tatou) keeps showing up without warning, his lesbian bestie (Cécile De France) is cheating with the babysitter, etc.—are the eponymous puzzle, but the pieces are too haphazardly placed to form a cohesive whole. There are sweet moments and callbacks to L’Auberge, including a neat trick in which we see snippets from all three films in the credits, but ultimately Puzzle lacks the magic of its predecessors. In the end, our guy gets the happy ending he’s wanted (unearned), and his editor is understandably displeased.
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