Agathe (Isabelle Huppert) isn’t just run-of-the-mill, Type-A–personality uptight; she tells bus drivers to speed up and threatens to turn PTA meetings into primal-scream–therapy sessions. Patrick (Man Bites Dog’s Benoît Poelvoorde) is a Belgian handyman whose love of drink, offending authority figures and plus-size women (not in that order) is causing him trouble with the French equivalent of Child Protective Services. So guess whose school-age sons become best friends? And when Agathe’s insufferable control-freakery causes the carpenter who’s been renovating the Parisian apartment she shares with her longtime partner, Francois (André Dussollier), to hit the road, do you know who gets hired to complete the job? And as this ridiculous fire-and-ice twosome find themselves continually thrown together, would you believe that they actually start to fall for each other? Le gasp!
Director Anne Fontaine has long been a purveyor of harmless, if generally toothless, middlebrow Gallic entertainment (see Coco Before Chanel); a detour through sitcom territory is an odd choice for her, even if the pseudo-screwball shenanigans come laden with halfhearted stabs at social issues on the periphery. Huppert fans have long been tolerant of her hit-and-miss filmography, and while her double act with the rubber-faced Poelvoorde provides a few well-played scenes—two words: horsey rides—it’s not enough to liven up a trite story of loosening up.
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